In the news report “US Students suffering from Internet addiction: study,” Walden Siew frames his argument for children becoming addicted to the Internet around a study inferring that withdrawal symptoms were experienced by those who went without media for a 24-hour period. His claim is that young people have become so attached to mobile devices and the Internet that they have trouble coping when they are without it. The causal reasoning is that since the Internet is such a large component in the lives of young people, they are not able to function well without it.
The article itself is somewhat evidence-based, but chooses to leave many of its details vague, citing nonspecific sources and failing to go into the details of what the study specifically says of Internet addiction among young people.
REASONING IN NEWS REPORT
“The American Psychiatric Association does not recognize so-called Internet addiction as a disorder. But it seems to be an affliction of modern life.”
Students in the Maryland study also showed no loyalty to news programs, a news personality or news platform. They maintained a casual relationship to news brands, and rarely distinguished between news and general information.
The credibility of the sources in the article is fairly strong, with the main research being performed at an accredited university, and the American Psychiatric Association being mentioned as not having Internet addiction as a disorder. The project director of the study herself is directly quoted and interviewed, as were several students in the sample of the project. However, many of the other citations are vague, such as the South Korean new story about the dead child being reported by “the media,” remaining oddly nonspecific as to the source of the story. Also, the mention of ‘various examples of students who ran up large debts or dropped out of college due to their obsession’ from the ReSTART website is vague and ill-researched; even if true, that evidence is merely anecdotal, and hardly an indicator of an ‘affliction’ as mentioned in the article. Merely getting this information from a website (albeit one of an official organization) instead of contacting them directly, speaks to poor research in their supporting claims.
The main inference made in the article is this:
Since [1students experienced withdrawal symptoms when they were forced to go without the Internet], [2students are addicted to the Internet].
This inference is fairly strong from 1 to 2, since withdrawal symptoms are often associated with addiction. However, the degree to which students are addicted is rather vague, the article stating that the students showed “an inability to function well without their media and social links.” Defining ‘well’ in this instance would have been very helpful; as it stands, it is unclear whether or not their ability to function well socially was facilitated by the presence of mobile phones and the Internet.
In the case of the South Korean example, its mention in the article brings up a very strong inference:
[1Internet addiction caused a South Korean couple to abandon their baby and starve it to death]. [2People are addicted to the Internet], therefore [3they will fail to take care of their children and leave them to die].
This is a very weak inference, as it is an (as the article admittedly says) extreme example. However, the inference is there – its inclusion in the article is meant to provide the most dramatic example of what could happen if Internet addiction goes too far. This is intended to paint Internet addiction as a whole in the most negative light, which speaks to a very specific agenda regarding the role of the Internet and media in people’s lives.
The crux of the article is a study that was performed at the University of Maryland wherein 200 students were asked to relinquish media for 24 hours. It is said that ‘many’ showed signs of withdrawal after that period of time, but that number is left nonspecific. Whether or not this number is statistically significant is still questionable, leaving the possibility that ‘many’ according to Siew is not that large a number. Given that the study is the primary point of the argument, it is strange that there is not more detail of its results included in the article. Instead, interview quotes are given, which are merely descriptive and do not provide much evidence of the reasoning behind the claim.
In the instance of the South Korean child who died of malnutrition, it is claimed that the child died because their parents spent half the day taking care of a virtual child instead. Whether or not this speaks to an individual disorder or the nature of Internet addiction is left unclear. Also, because the South Korean child died due to the parents’ Internet addiction, it is said that “it seems to be an affliction of modern life.” This one single example is used to make a sweeping generalization of the nature of Internet addiction, using strong language to paint it as an epidemic, or ‘affliction.’
The article is relatively weak when it comes to its reasoning; with a single study that states the presence of withdrawal symptoms among an indeterminate number of people in the sample, it starts a throughline that ends with an inference of infanticide (as in the South Korean example). The ‘affliction’ of Internet addiction is described with broad strokes, using a website of a small organization in Washington to indicate a much larger problem with Internet addiction. Overall, the article could have benefited from broader, more detailed examples and statistics of Internet addiction to use as reasoning for its claim that the phenomenon is not only negative, but it is widespread.