Are You Addicted to the Internet?

Do Facebook and Twitter help or hurt our happiness? It depends on how you use them. If the person has a certain inner strength, a certain confidence, then it is no problem. But if an individual’s mind is weak, then there is more confusion. You can’t blame technology. It depends on the user of the technology.

The Dalai Lama, Time Magazine, March 2014

Turn off your iphones, TV’s and other devices now and focus on this message. Is it hard for you to do?  Can you log off after reading this post and shut down for a while? Or will you experience nervousness, distractibility and even anxiety of you put all of your technology aside?

While there is no official diagnosis of Internet Addiction in the U.S., it is recognized in Finland, South Korea and China.

  • China has reported that 10 million teens (13.7% of teens) meet Internet Addiction criteria
  • In South Korea 210,000 teens and children have been identified (2.1%), with the average South Korean student spending over 23 hrs/week gaming
  • Treatment programs exist in China and therapists routinely screen for IA

So why is the U.S. not making the diagnosis?

Internet Addiction is recognized as Internet Abuse (IA). While not an official diagnosis, it includes the following ideas and activities:

  • Overuse of technology, heavy or excessive use of the Internet that has a negative impact on a person’s life
  • The Internet is seductive with an ever changing opportunity for reinforcement, being liked, making “friends” anonymous communication, is easily accessible and user-friendly
  • Excessive gaming, gambling or sexual activities
  • Making friends online to the exclusion of real Face-To-Face (FTF) friends
  • If often misused to manage stress, anxiety and depression and these diagnoses are made as the real reason for the IA, rather than recognizing a diagnosis of Internet Addiction.

When Is It A Problem for You?

Take This Quiz To Find Out

  • When you try to shut down your phone or computer do you feel compelled to go back to it?
  • Do you experience restlessness or anxiety when not online, on the phone or other device or gaming?
  • Do you use the Net to connect anonymously to “friends” with little FTF contact?
  • Do you feel that your virtual friends understand you better and you prefer them to FTF friends?
  • Do you feel compulsive with inability to stop using technology?
  • Have you ever felt depression, anxiety, social anxiety, compulsiveness, depression or anxiety before deciding to use your devices?
  • Have you ever felt depression, anxiety, social anxiety, compulsiveness, depression or anxiety when you put your devices away?
  • Do you experience loneliness, introversion and/or shyness? They are factors that may make you vulnerable to IA?
  • Do you lose track of time, lose weight, forgetting to eat, or gain weight from too much sitting in front of your technology?


What Can You Do if You Think You are Experiencing Internet Abuse?

– Seek Help from a therapist if your overuse is occurring in combination with depression, anxiety or avoidance of social connection.  Building FTF connections is one of the most important roads to happiness.

– Change technology use to be supportive of your FTF contacts.  Determine your current use and then notice how your Internet time is spent.  Is it texting real life friends? Or is it online in chat rooms? Be sure that most of your time is spent in real life interactions, answering mail from real friends, colleagues and family, participating in social networking sites with those you know or with whom you have built more than an online acquaintance.

– Notice specific patterns of IA. If you are likely to use technology upon awakening, make a plan to do something else. If your pattern is to go to the computer under stress, interrupt the pattern by choosing other activities. These may include exercising, meditating, and practicing simple relaxation techniques. Go to products section for specific examples and products.

– Set a schedule for tech use. Consider China’s three-hour rule.  How much time do you need for non-work related time on technology? Include gaming, social networking, and any other non-destructive activity. Gambling and sexual activities should not be included in your time assessment as they are part of the problem.

– Do not return to Internet use if you are currently challenged with gambling or sexual addiction issues. Being on the Net is a trigger for beginning such activities.

– Decide how you will use your online time ahead of time.  You can be more flexible once you have gotten control of your current schedule.

– Plan for challenges to your resolutions. When and where are you most likely to backslide? Have a plan for those triggers. You might plan to invite friends over instead.

– Substitute specific activities for IA activities. Make constructive choices for substitutions


Recommendations For Children and Teens

– As a parent, take responsibility for the times, days, and activities in which they are permitted to engage.

– Set tech use schedules and if there has been an issue with IA, be sure the computer is in a place that is in plain sight for supervision.

– If you suspect your child is overusing, talk to them.

– Be a role model. Children don’t do what you say they do what you do.  Restrict non-work related use so that you have time for your children and set a good example.

– Take E-vacations together. Spend a day or a few days offline. Only respond to phone calls that are essential, only at certain times and then only briefly, so as not to disrupt your time off together. Take walks, play non-tech games such as chess, engage in activities that require sustained attention.


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