01 Aug 2017

The lowdown on Internet Addiction

This month on SchoolTV, Child Psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg is getting into the nitty-gritty of Internet Addiction – what it is, how do you know when you are addicted, and what you can do about it. Below are some tidbits to help you get the conversation started with yourself and your son about time you spend online.

What is Internet Addiction?

Internet Addiction is classified by behaviour that changes as a result of time spent online. There isn’t a number of hours that will diagnose someone with internet addiction, but, there are a set of behaviours that we can look out for to identify someone who might be struggling.

What are some behaviours that indicate Internet Addiction?

Constant checking of your smartphone

How many times do you check your smartphone for messages and updates? Do you find yourself passively looking at your phone during a slump in your day or when you are procrastinating? Are you conscious of when you do this?

General Behavioural Changes

Have you noticed any change in your sleeping patterns, social habits, diet or interest in activities that are not based around a screen?

Internet addiction happens in bedrooms and at all times of day but it can affect people’s lives at work, or at school.

Pornography and Gambling

There is research to show that people who access online gambling and porn sites and become addicted to them are not necessarily those who would have these habits in real life. Internet porn and gambling is a lot more ubiquitous and hence pervasive to healthy relationships and attitudes. Again, these are habits that may develop behind a closed door that can affect people’s lives at work, school and with others.

How can the internet be addictive?

Escape is a big part of why the internet is addictive. Escape can be through creating a better online world for yourself and belonging to a different community. In a game, you can become a great warrior with respect, power and recognition. The elusiveness of virtual communities is in their ability to provide a sort of wish fulfilment and a portal out of boredom and idleness. It’s a welcome distraction just at the right time that can turn into a bad habit.

The internet and the various social media platforms and communities and sites operate like a novelty machine. We are amused, stimulated, and entertained through a simple action of scrolling down and refreshing. Neurologically speaking we can become addicted simply because it activates the reward circuit in our brain, and that’s how we get hooked.

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