A new internet addiction study shows how brain imaging can demonstrate that people with internet addiction share the same emotional and physical profiles as those with substance addiction or behavioural addictions like gambling.
The study, Internet addiction: Neuroimaging findings, follows on the heels of a flurry of research reports that appear to validate claims that something, whether you call it an ‘internet addiction’, or ‘compulsive internet use’, or ‘problematic internet use’ does exist, and can cause real damage - particularly in youth.
Not all youth face the same risks of addiction. Kids and teens who have been uprooted from their friends, feel socially isolated, lonely, have less empathy, or are impulsive by nature are at greater risk, as are youth struggling with ADHD (Attention - Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), social phobia, hostility and depression.
Now, just because you or your child spends a lot of time online does not automatically mean you or they are compulsive internet users or that you have an internet addiction. But there are 20 questions you can ask to help determine whether you, or someone you know, are struggling with problematic internet use.
Keep in mind that while any one sign may be concerning, multiple signs are more likely to indicate a problem. Are you ready? Here’s the list:
- Stay on the internet for much longer than intended, or not notice how much time passed while you were online?
- Get infatuated with the internet; or specific internet destinations?
- Make the decision to reduce the amount of time spent online, and then fail to achieve that reduction?
- Spend money on internet devices or online that should be used for other necessities?
- Escape into the internet to avoid responsibilities, escape painful feelings or troubling situations?
- Think frequently about the internet or an internet activity when not using it or constantly look forward to the next opportunity to be online?
- Have failed attempts to control your behavior, including aggressive behavior?
- Check messages compulsively throughout the day?
- Spend time online when you should be doing other things?
- Have a heightened sense of excitement while involved in internet activities?
- Become agitated or angry when not online or online time is interrupted?
- Prefer to spend time online rather than with friends or family?
- Feel restless when not online?
- Lie to others about the amount of time you spend online?
- “Sneak” online when no one is around?
- Feel guilty, ashamed, anxious, or depressed as a result of online actions?
- Sacrifice sleep to spend time online?
- Have physical changes like weight gain or loss, backaches, headaches, pain in arms, wrists and hands?
- Withdraw from activities you previously enjoyed?
- Feel depressed? Now, tally up your score and take a moment to reflect on your own risk profile. You may have just discovered that there are aspects of your own online use that may be problematic.
If you struggle with a less - than - healthy attachment to the internet and want to reduce your dependency, here are some recommended steps:
- Identify the areas in your life that are suffering because of the amount of time spent, and the behaviors taken, online. Are grades slipping? Are you sacrificing sleep? Are you missing out on participating in healthy physical activities? Are you depressed?
- Set specific time limits. Set an alarm to go off and end your time online when it rings. If this is a struggle, get a friend to call you and chat, or meet up to help you break the urge to stay online.
- Set aside "internet - free" parts of the day - school might be a great place to start. A study from 2009 found that 25% of teen’s cell phone messages were sent during class - and both texting and cell phone ownership have skyrocketed since then.
- Uninstall a game if it keeps drawing you back in, and give the game away if that isn’t enough to prevent you from compulsive playing.
- Restrict access to websites that you visit compulsively by installing blocking software - have a parent or friend keep the password so you can't bypass the filter.
- Schedule more fixed time to hang out with friends, volunteer somewhere, get a job, or start a new project. If these steps are not enough, look for resources for internet addiction recovery in your area.
- Kids lead Digital Lives: 33% of their time is online, 33% is offline (awake), and 33% is spent asleep
- This means that if a child sleeps 8 hours, then one half of their waking hours are spent online.
- Source - www.staysafeonline.org
- New Study finds internet addiction is manifest in neuro - imaging and shares the same emotional and physical profiles as substance or behavioural addictions. Source - Internet addiction; Neuroimaging findings, Dec. 2, 2011
- New research into teens and violent video games found for the first time, that young adults showed less activation in certain frontal brain regions following a week of playing violent video games at home.
- These brain regions are important for controlling emotion and aggressive behavior... [and] indicate that violent video game play has a long - term effect on brain functioning." Source - Violent Video Games Alter Brain Function in Young Men, Nov 28, 2011
- A Korean study of middle and high school students found that Internet - addicted students had significantly lower comprehension scores than non - addicted students. The test measured student’s abilities in ethical judgment and reality testing, and the results may indicate a relationship between internet addiction and weak social intelligence. The study also found a relationship between the age when internet addiction started, the length of time a student was addicted, and students’ performance in areas related to attention. Source - Preliminary study of Internet addiction and cognitive function in adolescents based on IQ tests, Nov 5, 2011