Internet addiction is commonly associated with teenagers who spend days at a time playing video games, but it’s not as much of a niche issue as you would think.
A new study, published in the latest issue Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, found that a shocking 6 percent of the world’s population now suffers from Internet addiction.
Addicted to being Online?
Lead researchers Cecelia Cheng and Angel Yee-lam Li, from the University of Hong Kong, examined 164 previous Internet addiction studies, then incorporated data from 89,000 individuals living in 31 nations across the globe.
Internet addiction peaked in the Middle East at 10.9 percent and came at a low of 2.6 percent in Northern and Western Europe. The scientists suggested that a lower quality of life, and not Internet accessibility, is what likely sparks this problem.
Internet Addiction Defined
Internet addiction is an impulse-control disorder that involves someone who is unable to control his or her Internet use to the point that it negatively affects interpersonal relationships. Internet addiction is more commonly associated with teenagers and young adults, rather than older generations.
A study published last May by Carphone Warehouse found that almost half of all kids ages 14-15 admitted being addicted to the Internet. About 15 percent even said they took an Internet-connected device with them to bed. While girls admit to using the Internet for social media chatting and browsing, boys are more likely to use it for gaming proposes.
“It’s the first thing I look at in the morning and the last thing at night. It seems I’m constantly on it,” wrote an anonymous 10-year-old student.
Treating a Digital Addiction
A research project published last October in the journal Addictive Behaviors reported that the first case of Internet addiction disorder had been successfully treated.
An unnamed 31-year-old U.S. Navy serviceman entered a 35-day residential treatment program for both Internet and alcohol addiction. He had been using Google Glass for 18 hours per day to help perform tasks at his job, removing it only to sleep and wash. He had also started experiencing symptoms of the addiction that included dreams as though they were being viewed through Google Glass’ small window.
Internet addiction disorder is currently not recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a clinical diagnosis. However, many experts believe it’s real and only a matter of time before it becomes part of the manual.
“People used to believe alcoholism wasn't a problem—they blamed the person or the people around them,”said Dr. Andrew Doan, co-author of the study. “It’s just going to take a while for us to realize that this is real.”
Learn more about helping a teenager who's addicted to the Internet.
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