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The internet is one of the greatest technological gifts to the world. With the increased usage of electronic devices such as smartphones and notebook computers, it is impossible to find a person under the age of 70 who does not use the internet at least sometimes. Because of its many applications, the internet is an essential part of daily life. It is a source of knowledge for research and education, communication through various social media channels, and financial transactions such as online money transfers, among other things. However, like Sherry Turkle, the author of the book Alone Together (2011), says, “The internet is young, and it is up to people to shape it. The problem begins when normal use turns into excessive use” (Turkle, 10). Unfortunately, the internet cannot be regulated and because of the many uses it has such as communication, it is difficult to know if its use has become excessive.
Internet addiction is a disorder associated with any online related irresistible behavior that interferes with a person’s normal life. This dependence is also called Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD). Though it may seem insignificant, internet addiction is just as dangerous, if not worse than any other, as drugs or alcohol addiction. Internet dependent people may spend over 50 hours a week online, neglecting their families, friends and their jobs. Some of the major areas that people are addicted to in the internet include: video games, social media platforms, such as Facebook, e-mails, Twitter, etc. Life has been made a lot easier through the internet by making information accessible as well as creating connections among people in the world. However, individuals make the internet the center of their lives by spending plenty of time in it, as a result, causing an addiction.
Although the disorder of internet addiction has still not been considered as an illness by researches, hopes are high that future editions will add it. A lot of research has been done to understand the complex nature of this disorder. Most of it has been done on the youths because they are the most vulnerable to this addiction. Compared to adults and older people, the youths use the internet more often. Therefore, the need to find ways to contain or instead minimize internet addiction in the society is significant.
Thesis statement: “The morality of technology is being questioned and one wonders if it has grown beyond control” (Dick 38). Sometimes people wonder if technology benefits the world or it is a curse. The truth is: what one does with is what matters. If an individual uses it in the best way, then it can be considered to be a beneficiary but if used in the bad way that it can be a curse.
Reasons for Internet Addiction
The cause of Internet Addiction Disorder is not easy to identify. Many factors come into play. A developing child is greatly influenced by the background of growth. The bringing up a child requires an emotional as well as a physically available parent. Poor skills of parenting, as well as dysfunctional parenting, are associated with youth’s delinquency. For instance, individuals growing up in low-income families tend to seek some ways to fulfill their psychological needs.
The alternative behavior meant to cause a distraction is referred to as compensation. Some individuals choose the internet as a form of satisfaction. Some factors affect the compensation level that includes the following: problem-solving ability, self-control degree as well as emotional control. Addiction occurs when compensation is done in excess. From social learning, physical activities, for instance, personal identity, peer relationship, as well as autonomy does not fulfill the high development needs of adolescence, such people shed social inhibition, leading to internet addiction. Moreover, individuals tend to seek excitement and pleasure from the internet, mainly when dissatisfied with their leisure time. The internet fulfills as well as entertains the needs of the youth.
Types of Internet Addictions
People are addicted to various forms of internet dependency. The most common forms of addiction include: constant and repeated review of pornographic material, video games, social networks and chat-rooms. Pornographic materials have caused the highest percentage of addictions. Individuals addicted to it are involved in sending and downloading of these materials, as well as sexting. Social media platforms together with chat rooms have resulted in a rise of cases of infidelity and online affairs, both virtual and actual.
Many times people can make friends whom they prioritize at the expense of their real relationships. They have led to increased cases of divorce along with separation and family instability for many families. “Social networks tend to push people apart and also offer the chance to practice malicious behaviors such as hate speech, even escaping in relating in real space as well as time” (Turkle 22). Individuals, who practice risk behaviors on social networks, ought to understand the role of social behavior and the effects attached to it. Risk behaviors can cost people money, as well as jobs. Organizations should enforce the needed security controls and guidelines to address the risk posed by such behaviors.
Playing video games is another major addiction. It especially concerns teens and preteens, who make the highest percentage of people, who have the compulsive need to play video games. Nowadays, kids are exposed to use of the internet from a very young age. The game that parents introduced to their kid when he/she was a toddler, can lay the foundation for this addiction to gaming. In most cases, the result of this obsession is teenagers skipping classes to service this compulsive need, as well as kids growing up with no real friends and becoming introverted (Young, 17).
Symptoms of Internet Addiction
There are many warning signs to identify someone suffering from internet addiction. These signs can be divided into four groups, namely; physiological, behavioral, physical and relational. Physiological symptoms are physical symptoms felt when a person is under a lot of stress or when anxious. Although they are connected to the physiological state of mind, they are exhibited physically. Some of these symptoms that will indicate to a person addicted to the internet include the following.
1. Feeling guilty about how much time spent on the internet. This will be amongst the first signs. A person becomes aware that they are spending too much time online.
2. Feeling anger and frustration when internet time is interrupted. Many internet addicts will find themselves feeling angry when their online time is disrupted. They will get mad at whatever or whoever interrupted their online time. This hurts their real-life relationships. For example, when a parent interrupts his/her teenager’s online video games time, their relationship might become strained. Many addicts feel frustrated when they have no access or are unable to get online.
3. Failure to notice the passage of time when online. Most addicts will get on the internet with an intention to stay online for only a particular amount of time but will find themselves losing track of time and staying on so much longer than intended. Besides, internet addicts can justify their actions by saying such things like “everyone is doing it, why is it wrong when I do it too?” or “other people are online more than me”. Justifying their actions makes the unhealthy use of the internet seem somewhat normal to them.
4. Addicts devote more time for online activities compared to family and hobbies. They will tend to lose the connection with their relatives and real friends as they develop other virtual friends online. Other physiological symptoms include mood swings when disconnected from the internet, most often the mood is negative, feeling satisfaction (for example, calmness, as well as happiness) only when online. This is evident for people using the internet as an escape from their normal life, a compulsive need to go online even when engaged in other activities, such as school or when out with friends.
Examples of physical symptoms that will indicate to a person that their internet use has become problematic and excessive include insomnia. Addicts are more likely to want to stay awake later than usual to complete their online sessions. Staying connected to the internet on a mobile device in bed at night will most likely have a person sleeping late. Sleep deprived individuals may experience fatigue as well as compromise a person’s immune system.
Effects of Addiction
Internet addiction refers to an impulse control disorder similar to the dependence of pathological gambling. Some users of the internet have developed emotional attachments to friends they meet online, therefore, spending much of their time on the internet. Internet addicts go to the extent of meeting friends online as an alternative to meeting them physically (Keller, 8).
Internet overuse causes physical effects because of the sedentary lifestyle. Such individuals tend to gain weight, and in the long run, the physical fitness deteriorates. The physical discomfort that internet addicts suffer includes backaches, as well as carpal tunnel syndrome and eating disorders. Carpal tunnel syndrome refers to the numbness, tingling as well as general weakness in the hand due to pressure occurring on the median nerve in the wrist. This problem is very likely to happen to game addicts because they make the same hand movements over and over.
A comparison between excessive internet users versus normal internet users indicates that for excessive internet users experience reduced appetite; they eat at a slower pace as well as take small meal sizes than the normal internet users (Kuss, 6). The diet quality of internet users is also lower. Moreover, they tend to prefer snacks. The favorite snacks preferred by excessive internet users have high calories as well as fats impacting in their growth and development. Such individuals snack more frequently, for instance, more than three times a day, thus end up gaining a lot of weight. Also, this also results in such people tending to skip meals frequently.
Excessive internet users also experience sleep patterns that are irregular as well as increased rates of sleep disturbance episodes. Moreover, excessive internet users are at higher risk of suffering from mental health problems, which are associated with sleep disturbances. Other issues include apnea, insomnia, as well as nightmares. Lack of sleep may have a negative impact on the performance of an individual, for instance, poor performance in learning institutions as well as at the places of work. Besides, some individuals experience drowsiness and lack of concentration at inappropriate times, for example, while driving, which may result in accidents. The adverse effects of introduction of technology such as the internet are only pondered when a negative impact occurs, for instance, accidents caused by texting while driving.
Individuals addicted to watching pornographic materials develop sexually related effects. Individuals who are frequently exposed to these materials will exhibit effects, such as sex addictions, as well as unreal expectations about sex. Internet sex addiction is also known as cybersex addiction. Sex addiction may result in adverse impact on a person’s mental, physical as well as social well-being. For instance, these people may show weird sexual behaviors, and also some may turn into rapists.
Internet addiction like any other addiction is a vice that needs to be discarded. There are many techniques used to treat it, including cognitive behavioral therapy. The method is efficient and focuses on the reduction of addict behaviors that are out of control; as a result, preventing relapse. The chief objective of therapy is abstinence when treating addiction. For instance, an alcoholic is best off when he or she stops the use of the drug entirely and maintains a lifestyle that is sober. The technique is applied to an internet addict by reminding one of the effects if overused; as a result, a person becomes more conscious and avoids trouble. Cognitive therapy is known for producing excellent results. In a study done by Young, it was found that the 114 clients treated through cognitive behavioral therapy managed their post-treatment presenting problems and showed improved motivation to end the internet abuse, improved to control their use of computers as well as function in offline relationships (Young, 15).
Psychological approaches including motivational interviewing are applied to enhance intrinsic motivation to change through exploring as well as resolving the ambiance of the client. Individuals learn new behavioral skills through the use of some techniques including open-ended questions, which aid people to express their feelings about change. Family member’s intervention, including family training, is useful methods to enhance the addict’s motivation to reduce the use of internet. Moreover, reality therapy encourages addicts to commit to behavioral change for the major aim of improving their lives. The therapy session includes time management training as well as demonstrating that addiction is a choice. Reality therapy is a significant tool for addiction recovery since it provides a wide variety of uses as a treatment for disorders that are addictive including sex, as well as food and so on. A study done in Korea asserts that this program of treatment effectively reduced the levels of addiction and improved the self-esteem of 25 students that were addicted to the internet (Kim 10).
Sometimes a multimodal treatment approach is used. The procedure involves the simultaneous implementation of several treatment methods including pharmacology, psychotherapy, as well as family counseling since the problems of the patients are complex. The technique improved individual’s emotional state as well as regulation ability.
All in all, the internet itself is neither bad nor good. However, any addiction is a severe problem. Any individual who exhibits any of the warning signs of internet addiction should seek help immediately. When an individual is dealing with an obsession with the internet, it is best if one identifies the problem and set goals or else find an alternate activity to reduce the addiction.
Moreover, the government ought to take an active role in the formation as well as evaluation of health intervention techniques to reduce internet addiction. Creation of public awareness on the issue is paramount given the adverse effect on the internet users’ development following poor quality of diets due to internet addiction. “Any new technology will have a cost as well as a momentum which are not taken into consideration in the course of its introduction” (Turkle 24). Most of the time, people seem not to care because they want to be on the same pace with technology advancement, as a result, ignoring the effects of inventions that are coming up. It is important to note that, technology has its benefits and adverse effects and one should be careful with both. “With the continuing trend in excessive internet use, humans will be like androids with no sense of empathy” (Dick, 26). Internet will limit the time individuals have for each other even if they are put in the same room. Individuals become human through paying attention to each other. Empathy is essential to the condition of humans. Moreover, it shows how one individual cares for the other. “The most crucial question is how far empathy would extend” (Dick 27). Individuals, who use the internet excessively, ought to act as human even if they are too busy to notice the people they are with. Moreover, normal internet users should treat excessive internet users like humans. People may lack empathy but still do not lose their humanity.
Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Del Rey Books, 1996.
Keller, Michael, Jason McEntee, Sharon Smith, and Steven Wingate. “Reading Spike Jonze’s Her: A Discursion.” InReading Popular Culture (pp. 479-492). Kendall/Hunt, 2015.
Kim Jong-Un. “The Effect of an R/T Group Counseling Program on the Internet Addiction Level and Self-Esteem of Internet Addiction University Students.” International Journal of Reality Therapy, vol. 27, no. 2, 2008 pp. 4-12.
Kuss, Daria J., et al. “Internet Addiction in Adolescents: Prevalence and Risk Factors.” Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 29, no. 5, 2013, pp. 1987-1996.
Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other. Hachette, 2017.
Young, Kimberly. “The Evolution of Internet Addiction Disorder.”Internet Addiction. Springer, 2015. 3-17.
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