Internet addiction is translated as any online-related, obsessive behaviour which hinders with daily living and generates extreme stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one’s work environment. Internet addiction has been dubbed Internet dependency and Internet compulsivity. By any name, it is a compulsive behaviour that entirely governs the addict’s life. Internet addicts make the Internet a priority more essential than family, friends, and work. The Internet develops into the organizing standard of addicts’ lives. They are ready to drop what they treasure most so as to preserve and continue with their unhealthy behaviour.
Signs and symptoms of Internet addiction differ from person to person. For instance, there are no definite set of hours per day or that designate Internet addiction. Nonetheless, there are common cautionary indicators that your Internet usage may have posed a problem:
- Losing track of time online: Do you regularly find yourself on the Internet longer than you intended? Do a few minutes develop in to a few hours? Do you get frustrated if your online time is disrupted?
- Having trouble completing tasks at work or home: Do you find laundry stacking up and little food in the house for meals as you have been occupied with the Internet? Do you find yourself working late more often because you can’t complete your work on time?
- Isolation from family and friends: Is your social life suffering due to all the time you spend online? Are you overlooking your family and friends? Do you feel that there is no one in your ‘real’ life who understands you like your like virtual friends?
- Feeling guilty or defensive about your Internet use: Are you tired of your spouse pestering you to get off the computer or put your smartphone down and spend time together? Do you hide your Internet use or lie to your boss and family about the amount of time you spend on the computer or mobile devices and what you do while you are online?
- Feeling a sense of euphoria while involved in Internet activities: Do you utilise the Internet as an outlet when stressed, sad, or for sexual gratification or excitement? Are there failed attempts in trying to limit your Internet usage?
Risk Factors and Causes
Many people fall back on the Internet in order to cope with unpleasant feelings such as stress, loneliness, depression, and anxiety. When experiencing a bad day, and are in search of ways to evade issues or to efficiently relieve stress, the Internet serve as an easily accessible outlet. Losing yourself online can momentarily dissipate the feelings of loneliness, stress, anxiety, depression and boredom. Albeit the comfort that can be provided by the Interne, it is vital to remember that there are numerous and more effective methods to keep challenging issues in check, which comprises of exercising, mediating and practicing simple relaxation techniques.
For majority of people, an essential feature of overcoming Internet addiction is to seek alternative methods to deal with these complex feelings. Even when your Internet use has reverted back to healthy levels, the sore and unpleasant feelings that may persists, therefore it is worth spending some time considering the different ways to use to cope with the stressful situations and daily irritation that would normally have you logging on.
You are at greater risk of Internet addiction if:
- You suffer from anxiety. You may use the Internet to divert yourself from your apprehensions and doubts. An anxiety disorder like obsessive-compulsive disorder may also lead to excessive email checking and compulsive Internet use.
- You are depressed. The Internet can be an escape from feelings of depression, but too much time online may deteriorate things. Internet addiction promotes stress, isolation and loneliness.
- You have any other addictions. Many Internet addicts experiences other dependencies, such as drugs, alcohol, gambling, and sex.
- You lack social support. Internet addicts frequently utilise social networking sites, instant messaging, or online gaming as a protected method of forming new relationships and more confidently relating to others.
- You’re an unhappy teenager. You feel frustrated as you wonder where you fit in and the Internet provides more comfort than ‘real’-life friends
- You are less mobile or socially active than you once were. For instance, you may be coping with a new disability that restricts your movement or you may be a new parent, thus making it difficult to leave the house or connect with friends. Hence, turning to the Internet as a source of interaction with the outside world.
- You are stressed. While some people use the Internet to relieve stress, it can have a counterproductive effect. The longer you spend online, the higher your stress levels will be.
Therapy and Counselling for Internet addiction
Therapy can give you a tremendous boost in controlling Internet use.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy provides step-by-step ways to stop compulsive Internet behaviours and change your perceptions regarding Internet, smartphone, and computer use. Therapy can also help you learn healthier ways of coping with uncomfortable emotions, such as stress, anxiety, or depression.
If your Internet use is affecting your partner directly, as with excessive cybersex or online affairs, marriage counselling can help you work through these challenging issues. Marriage counselling can also help you reconnect with your partner if you have been using the Internet for most of your social needs.
Group Support for Internet Addiction
Since Internet addiction is relatively new, it can be hard to find a real-life support group dedicated to the issue like Alcoholics Anonymous or Gamblers Anonymous. If that is a simultaneous problem for you, however, attending groups can help you work through your alcohol or gambling problems as well. Sex Addicts Anonymous may be another place to try if you are having trouble with cybersex. There may also be groups where you can work on social and coping skills, such as for anxiety or depression.
There are some Internet addiction support groups on the Internet. However, these should be used with caution. Although they may be helpful in orienting you and pointing you in the right direction, you need real-life people to best benefit from group support.
Helping a child/teen with an Internet Addiction
It’s a fine line as a parent. If you severely limit a child or teen’s Internet use, they might rebel and go to excess. But you should monitor computer and smartphone use, supervise online activity, and get your child help if he or she needs it. If your child or teen is showing signs of Internet addiction, there are things that you can do to help:
- Encourage other interests and social activities. Get your child out from behind the computer screen. Expose kids to other hobbies and activities, such as team sports, Scouts, and afterschool clubs.
- Monitor computer use and set clear limits. Restrict the use of computers or tablets to a common area of the house where you can keep an eye on your child’s online activity, and limit time online. This will be most effective if you as a parent follow suit. If you can’t stay offline, chances are your child won’t either.
- Use apps to limit your child’s smartphone use. If your child has his or her own smartphone, it’s very difficult to directly monitor their time on the Internet. However, there are a number of apps available that can effectively do the monitoring for you by limiting your child’s data usage or restricting his or her texting and web browsing to certain times of the day. Most of the major carriers offer parental control apps. Other third-party apps are also available that eliminate texting and emailing capabilities while in motion, so you can prevent your teen using a smartphone while driving. See Resources & References section below for more information.
- Talk to your child about underlying issues. Compulsive computer use can be the sign of deeper problems. Is your child having problems fitting in? Has there been a recent major change, like a move or divorce, which is causing stress?
- Get help. Teenagers often rebel against their parents but if they hear the same information from a different authority figure, they may be more inclined to listen. Try a sports coach, doctor, or respected family friend. Don’t be afraid to seek professional counselling if you are concerned about your child.