CeePrompt! Computer Connection
Originally published Monday, April 16, 2001
Research points to Internet's Addictive Lure
How much time do you spend on
According to research, 30 percent of all Internet users log on as a diversion and spend an average of two hours online. But another 6 percent, or nearly 6 million people, spend six to nine hours online and can be classified as compulsive users. These zealots actually have their own category of dysfunctional behavior: Internet Addiction Disorder, or IAD.
As the Internet becomes more and more a staple of everyday life, there is a growing body of research documenting excessive Internet use as addictive and harmful. It's been likened to compulsive gambling, since it involves failed impulse control without the use of an intoxicant, but its effects are similar to other known addictions.
"The use of the Internet can definitely disrupt one's academic, social, financial and occupational life the same way other well-documented addictions such as pathological gambling, eating disorders and alcoholism can," according to psychologist Kimberly Young.
Young was the first to study Internet addiction, and her research was presented before the American Psychological Association in 1996.
Any behaviors taken to extremes or excess can be deemed abnormal, I suppose, but the Internet poses a unique lure and danger because of the anonymity that it offers. It's quite easy for people to assume alter egos or false identities and then engage in risky behavior that they would never do in the everyday, face-to-face world.
A few criteria Dr. Young outlines as determining Internet addiction include:
* Preoccupation with the Internet when offline.
* Needing to use the Internet for longer periods of time.
* Inability to control Internet use.
* Using the Internet as a way of escaping problems or relieving a poor mood.
* Lying to family members or friends about time spent online.
* Risking the loss of a significant relationship.
* Increased depression and anxiety when offline.
The Center for Internet Addiction further subcategorizes Internet addiction into four areas:
* Cybersexual addicts are those who are either engaged in viewing, downloading and trading online pornography or are involved in adult-fantasy role-play chat rooms.
* Cyberrelational addicts spend excessive time in chat rooms and become overinvolved in online relationships or engage in virtual adultery.
* Net gaming addiction involves a broad category of behaviors including obsessive online gambling, gaming, shopping or stock trading.
* Information-overload addicts are people with obsessive/compulsive tendencies toward gathering and organizing online information.
There are many professionals that dismiss the idea of IAD and suggest addictive behavior is unique to newcomers who are simply exploring the wealth of information on the Web."Since this environment is so much larger than anything we've ever seen before, some people get 'stuck' in the enchantment stage for a longer period of time," psychologist John M. Grohol said. Others feel that Internet overuse can be lumped with other documented compulsive-behavior disorders and doesn't warrant its own diagnosis.
How much is too much has to be a personal decision. If Internet usage is interfering with personal or professional life, then a problem probably exists. To see if you're hooked on the Net, take the "Internet Addiction Test" online at The Center for Online Addiction at www.netaddiction.com/
Remember: All things in moderation.
Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.
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