With most teens and adolescents, there is a thin line between casual Internet use and addiction. The Internet has become a portal to knowledge and digital adventure for many, but some parents fear the negative effects of the unlimited access to all forms of content. Parents specifically take issue with the easy access their children have to explicit material, and the compulsive behavior that can stem from it. Here are the facts on Internet addiction and its effects.
According to Helpguide.org, Internet addiction can be defined as compulsive use that interferes with the natural flow of one's daily life, relationships or work. The organization also notes that Internet addiction is not yet formally identified as a psychological disorder. The concept of Internet addiction has gained popularity due to prevailing evidence that shows compulsive use can have a detrimental effect on the lifestyle and health of the individuals who are connected to it.
Signs of Addiction
People who have Internet addiction tend to have mixed feelings of both joy and guilt while on the computer. They generally lose track of time and neglect responsibilities. They uncontrollably use the computer to relieve stress, cheer up or for sexual gratification. They feel anxious or irritable when away from the computer and are more likely to alienate themselves from family and friends, generally preferring to make their social connections with strangers online.
Internet addiction can be a significant threat to one's health and social well-being in that it enforces antisocial behavior. The addiction can lead to the inability to communicate in the real world by depriving the addict of the daily practices involved with interpersonal communication. The act of using facial expressions or certain gestures to relay intended emotion or emphasize meaning decline as the addict substitutes keystrokes resembling smiley faces, or avatars. Socially, subjects become more inclined to develop personality disorders in which they identify more with their Internet representation than their real-life persona. Ultimately, an addiction to the Internet can cripple one's ability to maintain a healthy social life.
There is a popular belief among promoters of Internet censorship that overexposure to the type of explicit material available online can lead to a deluded view of real-life sexual interaction and to sex addiction. Helpguide.org defines sex addiction as compulsive sexual behavior that creates negative legal, emotional, career or physical consequences. This behavior is considered a common psychological disorder stemming from Internet addiction.
People who are most susceptible to Internet addiction are teenagers, people who already have anxiety attacks or issues with anxiety, those who have undergone recent trauma that has made them home-bound and less active, people with prior addictions and those with a lack of support from their peers or family. People coping with depression are the biggest candidates to find solace in excessive computer and Internet use.