Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 21st 2015 Contents A28
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Internet addiction and the dangers that exces-
sive computer gaming poses to children and ado-
lescents are receiving fresh attention with the
scheduled premiere of the documentary Web
Junkie on PBS.
The documentary highlights an alarming trend
in China. There are similar patterns in South Korea,
where the government estimates roughly one in
ten children between the ages of ten and 19 are
addicted to the Internet. But to see the issue up
close, we don t have to look any further than home
soil, or sometimes home itself.
We love our tech---our smartphones, tablets,
social media and the Internet---and increasingly
more of us are confronting the hard truth, that
we love it too much. A 2014 study determined that
about 16 per cent of 18- to 25-year-olds are involved
in compulsive Internet use. Some of us could feel
powerless in our relationship with it. But addiction?
Although Internet addiction is not formally
recognised in the United States as a mental illness,
there is a growing concern among medical prac-
titioners and health officials here who see the need
to offer therapy and treatment centres for it, and
treat the phenomenon as something more com-
plicated than simply a social problem.
The DSM-5 diagnostic "bible" for researchers,
clinicians, patients and insurers, updated in 2013,
does include Internet Gaming Disorder in its appen-
dix as requiring further study. This is an important
step. But while experts rightly debate whether to
add a category for Internet addiction to the DSM-
5, the rest of us need to come to terms with this
issue ourselves---and now.
Research and our own experiences have shown
that excessive tech and Internet use can create
dependence and addiction, neurologically and
physically. From birth through adolescence, children
are especially vulnerable because the brain develops
through patterns of use and through human rela-
tionships. New tech and Internet-centred cultural
norms, habits of excessive use and the way the
brain and psyche can quickly make bad habits
compulsive has turned this social phenomenon
into an urgent health concern.
Unfortunately, research lags behind our nimble
adaptation to the Internet, as well as swiftly evolving
digital technology. But in my clinical practice and
my talks around the world to audiences of parents,
educators and children, I ve noticed a trend when
I hear people of all ages describe the impact of
tech and Internet habits on their families, marriages
and children. It s the language of addiction: "It s
tearing our family apart. It s ruining our marriage---
I feel like I do not exist. I can t get my child to
Parents tell me about the child who lies about
the time spent online or gaming, and who becomes
restless, angry or depressed when unable to engage
in those activities: "You d think I was taking heroin
from an addict."
Children of all ages describe a feeling of loss
because their parents are more interested and more
responsive to their screens than to them. They
aren t fooled; they feel the disconnect: "My mom s
addicted to her phone. My dad tells me not to
drive and text, but he does it."
We all might joke about our "habit"---being an
online "junkie" or trying to cut back and suffering
"email withdrawal." Laugh or lament about it, but
we use the language of addiction because that s
how it can feel.
Beneath it all is the deeper damage that tech
and Internet dependence can cause. Excessive use
can become a source of chronic tension, compro-
mised physical health, emotional distress, decreased
performance at work and school, and an obstacle
to emotional intimacy.
Science has already established that early or
Are you addicted to the Internet?
excessive use of screens and digital
devices affects us neurologically, some
people more than others. It s different
for everyone, and you need to under-
stand your own wiring.
The signs of tech and Internet
dependence or addiction include
obsessive or compulsive gaming, social
media or Internet activity, and height-
ened restlessness, irritability, anger,
anxiety or withdrawal when access
to it is limited or denied.
Someone more vulnerable may use
gaming or excessive time on the Inter-
net or social media use as a coping
mechanism, for instance, to deal with
emotional turbulence or social anxiety
and fill psychological needs.
What parents, teachers, health pro-
fessionals and so many others can
already see from children and adults
who display an extremely problematic
relationship with tech and the Internet
is that they need help, whether it s
cognitive behaviour therapy, wilder-
ness programmes, insight-oriented
therapy or treatment centres that
combine approaches. (CNN)
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
Research has shown that excessive tech and Internet
use can create dependence and addiction,
neurologically and physically.
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