Internet addiction is becoming a serious problem. Sometimes we can’t get enough of the wealth of information that is at our fingertips; for the first time ever we can find out almost anything simply by sitting in front of our computer. We no longer need phone books, cookbooks, paper bills, encyclopedias, or letters because these things can all be done online.
As if that weren’t enough, a new problem that has been creeping up over the last few years is social networking sites. Face book and MySpace are big time-consumers for those that get drawn in. One of the things researchers have found with social networking sites and email is that just the possibility of communication on these sites is enough to cause an addiction. Psychologist B.F. Skinner theorizes that not knowing whether a reward (such as an email from a loved one) is coming is actually more compelling than being able to count on the reward coming every time. This is true if we think about it – how many times do we check our messages or comments to see if someone has responded to us? We keep checking back again and again, just in case someone has left a message for us. People also use these sites to fill voids in their life. There’s always someone to talk to online, always a place that gives you the chance to voice your opinion. Many people thrive on these interactions.
Another popular Internet past time are social games. Farmville, Mafia Wars, and Café World can become just as addicting as heroin. These games are actually designed to be addicting, as we can see with the estimated 5 million people a day playing Mafia Wars. With new levels to achieve, collections to gather, and friends to help out, people find themselves coming back again and again to play the games.
Some people still don’t acknowledge Internet addiction as a real thing. But China and South Korea have both declared their number one public health threat to be Internet addiction. In our country, an estimated 6% of Internet users are addicted. There are people that spend 17 hours a day playing these games. Families and jobs are neglected and healthy eating and exercise are abandoned because of Internet addiction. Some people even suffer health consequences, such as blood clots and carpel tunnel, because of sitting in front of a computer too long.
It is not wrong to enjoy some down time while checking email or playing Mafia Wars. But when these activities start interfering with everyday life or things that are important, a problem is occurring. We should all seriously our computer usage and look out for an addiction before it occurs. We can start by recording the time we spend per day on the Internet, being sure to include those quick email checks and instant messaging to friends. If it is more than a few hours, we need to cut back.
For those that need help overcoming an Internet addiction, treatment centers are available, though they are still fairly scarce. There are also programs that limit a user’s time on the Internet, as a way to cut back on time spent in front of the computer screen.
This article was written by Bethany Winkel
Joining the TSN online family in 2008, Bethany has used her skills as a writer to reach many people through her blog. Always eager to be a help to others, she is pleased to see her writing become a source of information, encouragement, and hope for those impacted by substance abuse. Bethany is happy to be involved with an organization that is making a difference in the lives of others. Bethany has also held the position of development coordinator for a nonprofit youth center for the past 6 years. With her expertise in grant writing, Bethany has raised over $1 million for programming that benefits at-risk youth. The happy mother of 4 young children, Bethany juggles her writing from home with spending time with her family. If her hours of research for her TSN blog articles have taught her one thing, it is to be an involved parent who takes time to listen to her kids.