Internet Addiction

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Because cyberspace can satisfy so many of the adolescent's needs, there is the possibility of becoming "addicted" to it. Are all teens susceptible to this danger? No. Some will always be casual users, some may just go through phases of intense internet use. The ones who do fall prey to the net most likely are experiencing problems in their real lives. Cyberspace becomes an escape, a place to vent, a place to act out or even cry out for help.

As Dr. Kimberly Young -- a psychologist who studies internet addiction -- points out in her book "Caught in the Net," internet-obsessed adolescents may become the "identified patient" in the family. Fingers are pointed at them and at the "evils" of the internet, when the real problems probably lie in the family.

What are some of the danger signals of excessive internet use? In her book, Dr. Young identifies several warning signs:

-- Denial and lying about the amount of time spent on the computer or about what they are doing on the computer.

-- Excessive fatigue and changes in sleeping habits, such as getting up early or staying up late (in order to spend more time online).

-- Academic problems, usually grades slipping. Sometimes parents might overlook the fact that the computer is the culprit since they assume their children are doing school work at the keyboard.

-- Withdrawal from friends and declining interest in hobbies (online friends and activities are taking the place of the "real" world).

-- Loss of appetite; irritability when cut-off from computer use; a decline in their appearance or hygiene.

-- Disobedience and acting out. Teens may become very hostile when parents confront them. They may deliberately break the computer-use rules that are set. Their reactions may be so intense because they feel that they are being cut off from their attachments to cyberfriends.

by John Suler, Ph.D.