Internet Addiction Thesis

Pages: 7 (1895 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Education - Computers

Internet Addiction

From education to entertainment and business to communication, the Internet has touched upon every aspect of our lives. Paradoxical as it might seem, the Internet, which is widely touted as a broad socializing medium is silently causing social isolation among some of the users. The explosive growth of the Internet makes it a high priority to intervene appropriately to limit its deranging influence on our youth. Increasing the awareness about the potential negative effects of Internet (gaming, gambling, pornography) is the first step in controlling the development of aggressive and addictive behaviors.

The Internet has revolutionized the lives of millions of people around the world over the last two decades. It has bought a paradigm shift in our access to information, communication, entertainment, and has opened a whole new dimension for businesses. It has become the most important medium for educational research. On the glimmer side though is the proposed addition of 'internet addiction' as a disorder for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). This concern about the Internet assumes real significance as worldwide statistics indicate increasing Internet usage, particularly among the youths. Recent statistics show that youths in USA and UK spend up to 16.7 hours and 20 hours respectively per week on the Internet. The figure stands much worse for Korea where 6 to 19-year-olds spend around 23 hours per week online. [Sophie Reid, 2008] Gambling, pornography and socializing through online chatting are identified as some of the main addictive platforms of the Internet. As shocking as it may seem, internet based 'Massively Multiplayer Online Role player Games' (MMORPGs) are identified as a major addiction affecting 8.5% of American youth gamers, 12% of British gamers and is the number one issue for young people in China. [Sophie Reid, 2008] Could Internet be addictive? Could it be a destructive tool? A brief overview will help highlight these growing concerns about the Internet.

Internet Addiction Disorder

Addictive behavior in general is defined as a, " compulsive, uncontrollable dependence on a substance, habit, or practice to such a degree that cessation causes severe emotional, mental, or physiological reactions." [Byun et.al (2009)] The four main components that are associated with compulsive and impulsive disorders namely- 'excessive use, withdrawal, tolerance and negative repercussions' are clearly observed in a subset of people using the Internet. This has prompted psychiatrists and behavioral analysts to recommend the inclusion of 'Internet addiction disorder' in the DSM V edition. [Block J, (2008)]

Excessive usage of the Internet is a commonly observed trend among young gamers. A study by Nicholas Yee (2006) revealed some striking facts. This study stretched over a four-year period from (2000 to 2003) and analyzed 30,000 online gamers (MMORPGs). Statistical analysis of the survey revealed some new information. Gaming, which was so far identified solely with teenagers, was found to be more prevalent across the spectrum of age. The average of the subjects who participated in this survey was 26.57 years. The study also revealed that around 8% of the subjects spent more than 40 hours per week on their online interactive gaming, which is equal to regular working hours in a week and there was no correlation between age and time spent. (All age groups were equally vulnerable to gaming addiction). 70% of the participants spent more than 10 hours straight in gaming, while 50% self reported addiction to the online game. [Yee, (2006)]

The study also identified 'withdrawal symptoms' among the participants. As one of the participants of the study puts it, 'There are serious withdrawal pangs, anxiety, and a feeling of being lost and not quite knowing what next to do with yourself'. Based on a five point Likert scale that was used in the study, it was found that 15% of the subjects agreed that they were very angry and irritable upon withdrawal and 30% strongly agreed that they continued to participate in the gaming experience even when they were frustrated and not really enjoying the gaming experience which is a clear indication of addiction and withdrawal avoidance. [Yee, (2006)]

It is believed that around 9 million Americans are afflicted by computer and internet addiction disorders which seriously affects their social, educational and work life. [Byun et.al, (2009)] A national telephonic survey of 2513 people was conducted recently to gauge the extent of problematic Internet usage in the country. The participants of this survey were interviewed using questions that were derived from the established diagnostic criteria for 'impulse control and substance abuse disorders'. Some of these question sets were specifically formulated to gather information pertaining to unintended prolonged usage, withdrawal issues and the interference with normal social relationships. From the information gathered during the telephonic interviews that lasted an average of around 11.3 minutes it was inferred that atleast 3.7% to 13% of the respondents had problematic levels of Internet usage that interfered with their regular life. The study authors concluded that "Potential markers of problematic Internet use seem present in a sizable proportion of adults." [Aboujaoude E, (2007)]

Internet Game Addiction (China and South Korea: A growing Crisis)

While Internet addiction is common among a subset of Internet users worldwide, the problem is more pronounced in developing economies in Asia. Particularly, in China and South Korea, addiction to Internet gaming has blown out of proportions and resulted in fatalities. A spate of recent cardiopulmonary deaths at Internet cafes prompted the Korean government to seriously investigate the issue of Internet addiction among young children and adolescents. The report from the 2006 investigation revealed some staggering facts. It was found that around 2. 1% of 6 to19-year-olds were seriously addicted and 80% of these required psychotropic medications while 20% to 24% reportedly require hospitalization. Government sources believe that another 1.2 million school age children may require counseling and immediate interventional services. These results have propelled the government to swing into full action and currently there are around 193 hospitals throughout the nation that are enlisted for internet addiction disorder treatment with more than 1043 trained counselors. [Block J, (2008)]

China on the other hand is experiencing a similar problem but at a larger scale due to its enormous population. As Dr. Tao Ran, the director of the Beijing Military central hospital recently reported more than 13.7% of adolescent internet users or an approximate of 10 million teenagers are afflicted by internet addiction disorder. [Block J, (2008)] One recent study compared Internet usage between Chinese and American students. This study by Zhang et.al (2008) selected a total of 314 students, 171 U.S. students from a U.S. university and 143 Chinese students from a public university in northern china. The subjects were given questionnaires that contained demographic data, 10 'internet addiction symptoms', and a '28-item survey instrument' that was designed to measure addiction on a 5 point Likert scale. The survey results were assessed under 5 parameters of Internet addiction namely 'Social escape, secretive behavior, Negative outcomes, Virtual intimacy and Obsessive compulsive behavior'. Univariate Statistical analysis of the data revealed that Chinese students were significantly higher in all the five dimensions of Internet addiction. Final analysis revealed that 20 Chinese students (14%) were heavily addicted compared to 7 U.S. students (4%). The study also revealed that 92 Chinese students (64%) and 40 U.S. students (23%) were mildly addicted. The study concluded that Internet addiction was more common among Chinese students. [Zhang et.al, (2008)]

A recent Italian study administered the Italian version of the Internet addiction test (IAT) to a total of 236 subjects who were actively participating in Internet chat rooms. The subjects were diverse in terms of their age and occupation. Analysis of the study data revealed that young users are more at risk for problematic Internet usage or addiction and that Internet was used as a compensatory measure for a perceived poor quality of their social lives. The study also found that habitual nighttime usage of Internet had a drastic impact on their overall quality of life. [Ferraro G, (2007)]

Behavioral Disorders and Internet Addiction

In the U.S., Internet addiction is largely clouded by co morbid conditions and as reports show 86% of Internet addiction cases have a comorbid DSM diagnosis. [Block J,(2008)] One U.S. study focused on the usage of Internet among adolescents with schizotypal personality disorder. For the study the researchers used three different groups of subjects. The first group comprised of 19 adolescents with SPD while the control group was made of 22 children with other forms of psychiatric disorders. The researchers also used a second control group with 28 non-psychiatric adolescents. A positive correlation between the severity of SPD symptoms and the usage of chat rooms, multiple role play internet gaming, and other internet-based communication utilities was clearly noticed compared to the two control subjects. [Mittal A, (2007)] Another study that analyzed the relationship between Internet usage and Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder also found a similar positive correlation with Internet usage. [Ju-Yu Yen, (2009)] These studies seem to suggest that Internet addiction maybe more common among children with preexisting behavioral disorders.

Conclusion

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