Live revision! Join us for our free exam revision livestreams Watch now

In the News

Psychology In The News | Is Internet Use Linked to School Absences?

Rosey Gardiner-Earl

20th May 2024

Research published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood has linked excessive internet usage, inadequate sleep, and lack of exercise to an increased risk of truancy and illness-related school absences among teenagers. The researchers analysed data from a school survey conducted every other year in Finland, involving 86,270 students aged 14-16. The school survey asked participants about their sleeping and physical exercise habits, their relationship with their caregivers, and their internet usage.

Excessive internet use was assessed using a validated scale (the Excessive Internet Use Scale) which measured components such as compulsion, neglect of family/friends/studies, anxiety when not online, and failure to eat or sleep due to being online. Participants were asked to estimate how often they experienced each of these, scoring them from 1 (‘never’) to 4 (‘very often’) to provide an overall average. Girls were found to be 96% more likely than boys to fall into the excessive internet use category, potentially due to higher social media usage. In addition, participants had to provide information on how many times, in the last school year they had played truant or been absent due to illness.

The study found that older age, excessive internet use, shorter sleep duration, and lack of physical activity were associated with an increased risk of both truancy and medically explained absences. Conversely, having a trusting relationship with parents, longer weekday sleep, and regular exercise were protective factors, with the ability to share concerns with parents being the most strongly associated with lower absence rates.

While the observational study cannot establish causality, the researchers suggest the findings have important implications for promoting health and educational attainment, particularly for professionals working in school health and well-being services.


  1. The researchers used data from the ‘School Health Promotion Study’ which is a survey conducted on school children in Finland every other year. This could be described as secondary data. What is secondary data?
  2. The School Health Promotion Study did not include any questions about the type of internet use engaged in by teenagers. Why might this be a problem?
  3. The end of the article mentions important implications for promoting health and educational attainment. How could this research be used practically in secondary schools?
  4. Excessive internet use was positively correlated with school-related absence. Why can we not establish cause and effect between internet use (as the cause) and school-related absence (as the effect)?
  5. This study was conducted in Finland. Why must we be cautious when applying the findings to UK teenagers?

Extension: how could you study the effects of excessive internet usage on school-related absence in an experimental manner, to enable cause and effect to be established? What challenges might you face as a researcher in investigating this area?

Reference (accessed 28.4.24)

Download this teaching activity!

Rosey Gardiner-Earl

Rosey has 15 years of experience teaching Psychology and has worked as both a Subject and Senior Leader in school and large sixth form setting. Rosey is also an experienced A level Psychology examiner.

© 2002-2024 Tutor2u Limited. Company Reg no: 04489574. VAT reg no 816865400.