Internet addiction disorder, also known as problematic internet use or compulsive internet use, refers to an excessive and compulsive dependence on the internet that disrupts daily life activities and impairs overall well-being. Similar to other addictive behaviors, such as substance abuse or gambling, internet addiction disorder involves a loss of control over internet usage, leading to negative consequences in various areas of life.
The advent of social media platforms, online gaming, streaming services, and other digital entertainment options has contributed to the prevalence of internet addiction disorder. These platforms offer an endless stream of engaging content, social interactions, and instant gratification, all of which can make it challenging to moderate one’s online behavior.
In this article, we will delve deeper into the intricate details of internet addiction disorder, exploring its causes, symptoms, potential consequences, and available treatment options. By shedding light on this modern-day challenge, we aim to equip readers with the knowledge and tools necessary to strike a balance between the benefits of the internet and maintaining a healthy offline life.
What is Internet Addiction Disorder?
Identifying internet addiction disorder can be challenging, as it manifests differently in individuals. However, several common symptoms and signs can indicate a problematic relationship with the internet.
These may include:
- an intense preoccupation with being online
- unsuccessful attempts to cut down internet usage
- neglecting personal responsibilities or relationships
- feelings of restlessness or irritability when offline
- experiencing withdrawal symptoms when unable to access the internet
The consequences of internet addiction disorder can be far-reaching and impact various aspects of an individual’s life. Academic or occupational performance may suffer, social relationships may become strained or neglected, physical health can decline due to sedentary behavior, and mental well-being may be compromised, leading to anxiety, depression, or other psychological disorders.
As our society becomes increasingly reliant on digital technologies, it is crucial to address the issue of internet addiction disorder proactively. Raising awareness, promoting digital literacy, and fostering healthy online habits are essential steps toward preventing and treating this disorder.
It is equally important for individuals to recognize the signs of internet addiction disorder and seek professional help when needed, as early intervention can significantly improve outcomes.
🤓 Suggested reading: How Many Hours of Video Games Is Too Much For Teens?
Does “Internet Addiction Disorder” Even Exist?
The term “Internet Addiction Disorder” was first coined by Dr. Ivan Goldberg in 1995, who compared it to pathological gambling.
It is also commonly referred to as Compulsive Internet Use (CIU) and Problematic Internet Use (PIU).
Things have gotten so bad that in 2008 China identified “Internet Addiction Disorder” as a clinical disorder.
A recent 2016 study showed that roughly 10% of Chinese Internet users were severely addicted to the Internet.
In South Korea, almost 20% of the population, nearly 10 million people, are at serious Internet addiction risk.
South Korean authorities now provide services such as in-school counseling, screening surveys, and preventive training.
For severe cases, they have opened tech addiction rehabilitation facilities.
A director from one of the facilities says that more boys than girls are treated there.
Generally, the boys come for game addiction, while the girls are hooked on social media.
One of their main aims is to help students find a new hobby because they only use their phones when they have extra time.
Even though not officially classified in America and Europe, the prevalence of Internet Addiction Disorder in these first-world cultures is staggering.
It is reported to affect up to 8.2% of the general population.
However, some reports suggest that the real number might be as high as 38% of the general population.
This discrepancy in the prevalence rate might be because no standardized criteria have been selected for Internet Addiction Disorder.
It is researched differently among scientists and mental health professionals.
Plus, it is researched differently across ethnic cultures.
What Is Internet Addiction?
If you suffer from Internet Addiction Disorder, your brain makeup is similar to brains that suffer from a substance abuse problem, such as drugs or alcohol.
Over time, more and more of the activity is needed to induce the same pleasurable response, creating a dependency.
Addiction physically changes the brain structure known as the prefrontal cortex of the individual who is addicted.
There is a physical change that happens based on the fact that your brain has the ability to adapt.
The problem is that once your brain has adapted, then these changes become ingrained and difficult to change.
The brain’s impacted area is associated with remembering details, attention, planning, and prioritizing tasks.
In other words, these changes affect the individual’s ability to prioritize tasks in their life, rendering them unable to prioritize their life, meaning the Internet takes precedence over necessary life tasks.
Additionally, altered brain chemistry results in a progressive loss of impulse control and awareness of negative consequences.
Therefore, if you have an addiction problem, you need help – not punishment – to break the connection between your brain and technology.
Is My Teen Addicted To Technology?
The most commonly identified Internet Addiction categories include gaming, social networking, email, blogging, online shopping, and Internet pornography use.
Some researchers suggest that it is not the amount of time spent on the particularly troublesome Internet.
They argue that it’s how the Internet is being used that poses the greatest risk.
In other words, Internet use’s riskiness can be just as important as the amount of time spent.
We can describe Internet Addiction Disorder as:
- a pattern of persistent or recurrent use of the Internet
- that results in clinically significant impairment or distress
- and that is indicated by three (or more) symptoms, occurring at least weekly for 3 months or longer
The simple questions below can be used as a guideline to determine if screen time is potentially harming your teen’s health.
- Are they playing video games on the Internet in excess?
- Can they not stop themselves from compulsively checking Facebook or social accounts?
- Is their excessive use of devices interfering with their daily life – relationships or school?
- Do they get upset when you ask them to stop their screen activity?
- Do they have trouble completing their homework because they’re spending too much time on screens?
- Do they refuse to help with chores because they prefer to engage with a screen?
- Do you find them secretly on a screen after you told them to stop or take a break?
- Is your teen not getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day?
- Would your teen rather play video games or watch YouTube videos than go outside and play with friends?
- Does your teen no longer enjoy any activity that does not involve screens?
- If restricted from using screens for a day, do they become restless, moody, depressed, or irritable?
- Has your teen previously made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop the use of the Internet?
- Does your child seem to be having a more difficult time regulating their emotions (also known as emotional dysregulation)?
- Does your teen seem more apathetic and get bored more easily?
- Does your teen always seem tired yet also wired? Also known as “wired & tired.”
- Do teachers complain that your child is falling asleep in school?
Specifically, at least one of the following must be present in a diagnosis of Internet Addiction Disorder:
- They risked the loss of a significant relationship with friends or family, or an educational opportunity or beloved activity because of the Internet
- They have lied to family members or others to hide time spent online
- They use the Internet as a way of escaping from problems
You can use the free screening test below to find out if there is a possible problem:
Please note that this test should only be used as a guideline and a starting point to determine a problem.
If you suspect that a problem exists, then it’s always best to consult with a professional.
Internet Addiction Diagnostic Tests & Assessments
If you do seek professional help, then the tools used to help make a diagnosis of Internet Addiction Disorder include:
- Internet Addiction Test (IAT)
- Problematic Internet Use Questionnaire (PIUQ)
- Compulsive Internet Use Scale (CIUS)
It is worth noting that many researchers are uncertain of whether Internet Addiction Disorder is a disorder in its own right or rather a symptom of other underlying conditions.
What makes it even more difficult is that internet usage is an integral part of our daily lives.
Therefore it becomes even more difficult to distinguish normal usage from problematic usage.
What Are The Treatment Options For Internet Addiction Disorder?
There is some debate over whether or not treatment is necessary in the first place.
Treatment can be necessary, though it largely depends on the individual.
Some people like Professor Kiesler argue that self-corrective behavior can be successful.
If the teen is unable to self-regulate time spent on screens, then parents can take further steps.
Interventions that start at home can include parental control apps that control the time spent on the Internet and the types of apps and sites that teens can access.
Most professionals agree that total, long-term abstinence from devices is not an effective treatment method.
So it is best to discuss and agree on a schedule and rules with your teen rather than banning device usage outright.
- Factors that increase the risk for Problematic Internet Use are:
- paternal neglect
- maternal care
- depressive symptoms
- being male
- Depression, which has been linked in other studies is also a result of PIU.
- Two other expected co-link results of Problematic Internet Use are lower academic achievement and substance abuse.
They found boys more likely to engage in Problematic Internet Use than girls, as they tend to be prone to more addictive-like behaviour, are more impulsive and, as suggested by other studies, may have more online options such as gaming or watching YouTube videos or pornography. Girls may be more likely to be online for socializing purposes.”
The study does go on to say that spending a lot of time on the Internet does not have to be labeled problematic.
If it does not impact their mental health, behavior, or their grades, then we cannot label it as problematic behavior.
As parents, we need to be aware of the negative consequences and step in when necessary.
Teens will go through a period of heavy Internet use in the beginning.
If we help them set their own boundaries, goals and encourage other interests, then their usage should decrease as they mature.