Problematic internet use (PIU) is a growing phenomenon worldwide. Students
in higher education especially are a vulnerable group for developing
symptoms associated with PIU as a result of the idiosyncratic characteristics of
student life. Owing to a lacuna in local social work research on the nature,
extent and impact of internet use among students in South Africa, a crosssectional survey was conducted with 498 (n = 498) second-year undergraduate
students at a South African university. The results indicate that students access
the internet on university campuses and at home daily through their cell
phones and laptops for academic and social purposes. Although the average
number of hours spent on the internet per day does not indicate PIU, the
findings flag certain symptoms associated with PIU, for example, tolerance,
escape from problems, and loss of control. Social workers should not be
complacent, but rather introduce services to lower students’ risk of PIU.
Considering the country’s adoption of social development as welfare model,
developmental social work services on the preventive, early intervention and
treatment levels as well as policy development are recommended.