What is addiction? Can someone be addicted to the internet, computer gaming, or the computer itself? These are some of the questions that I hear when talking with people about addictions. I have studied psychology for going on 10 years now and the internet addiction seems to be the up and rising addiction on the list these days. We do everything on our computers and thus devote a ton of time to it. It is when things in your personal life start to get unmanageable that you need to start taking a better look at what you are doing.
Addiction is defined in the Merriam-Webster Online dictionary as:
compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly : persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful.
This definition is pretty vague but it gives a person an idea of what addiction is, although it only looks at the substance abuse side of things, without taking into account gambling, food, love, sex, and internet addiction. Yes internet addiction is real and it is out there. The interesting thing is it is not as prevalent in teens as one would think. In most studies internet addiction is shown higher in white males with above average incomes, and 14 years of schooling or more. Although this is the facts from the studies there have been some things done on teenagers to see if there is a problem in this area.
In one study done by Kaltiala-Heino, Lintonen, and Rimpela (Addiction Research and Theory, February 2004, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 89-96) questionnaires were sent out to ages 12-18, with 7299 responding. Out of these respondents 1914 stated that they used the Internet daily and 4274 used it occasionally. Of the respondents around 4.7% of females and 4.6% of males met the definition of “Internet addiction”. In another study done by Tsai and Lin (CyberPsychology & Behavior, Volume 6, Number 6, 2003, pp. 649-652), it was found that out of 700 Taiwanese high school students 60 in the sample were identified as Internet addicts. To some this may not seem like a high percentage to worry about, but with the growing use of the internet in homes around the world and newer and faster connections to it increasing everyday, the number of users, and therefore addicts is bound to increase rapidly.
One area we see increasing rapidly is the gaming industry. It is estimated that the industry made 1.1 billion in 2003, and with hundreds of new games in the production stages the market soon will have an online game for every type of interest out there attracting more people to it. How do you beat a game that is unbeatable? I remember as a kid playing asteroids, pacman, space invaders, etc. Although you couldn’t beat these games they were mostly the same thing over and over. Eventually you got bored and stopped playing. The new games are nothing like these older ones as we all know these games don’t have the same thing over and over, these are worlds built to keep our interest and some are even ever changing. There is no big boss of the whole game to beat, and there is no GAME OVER that comes up. You can sign on for an hour and play, but you won’t get very far as it may take you 20 minutes to run, fly, or teleport to the area you want to be at, thus most tend to play a few hours at a time. Bring into this the social aspect as you want to try to stay the same level as your friend you met in game, or be a high level in your guild, etc. you will tend to play a bit longer.
This is where the addiction begins we will see a person starting to push the limits, staying up till midnight to “get things done” in game, when they work at 6am, or waking up at 5am and playing a couple hours before work. You may see the computer start to clutter with bowls, plates, pop cans, etc. The person may not have time to spend with family anymore, as there are things that he “HAS to DO” in game. These are the types of things that will start to surface with an addict. Many think that computer addiction is a joke, and there is no way you can get addicted to a computer. Why not? How many of us have spent all day watching TV? There are plenty of things to do, so why TV? Although most never say TV is addictive, as any soap fan that has been watching the same soap day after day for 20 years.
The internet is very alluring and has everything that you could possibly need on it. You can order food, buy cloths, bank, pay bills, watch porn, gamble, play games, you name it. Not only teenagers find this to be heaven, but a teenager sees this as all the sins of the world displayed out for all to see, just a few letters and enter, and your there. This has put our society on a new level alert, no more are the magazines coming to the door or sitting on the rack with brown covers, or strategically located back plastic. Everything is right at your finger tips now.
In order to combat threat of the internet on our teens it is important that you know what they are doing and how much time is being spent on the net. The net is a great learning tool but can also be a good way to get into trouble. Also be sure to know the ins and outs of your security programs that may have ways around them. Do a search on the net and learn these ways so you know this also. This will help you know if the child is doing something they are not supposed to. Regulate the time spent on the net, there is plenty to do in the world without spending your whole weekend on the net. Take the time to do other things.
There are a ton of things to watch for, internet addiction does exist and can be destructive to families if not careful. The internet is one of the most useful tools of this era, we can learn so much now with only a few clicks, but we can also get in trouble with only a few clicks, it is important to watch our own behavior and what is going on around us. There are plenty of reports and stories on the news and magazines about people neglecting there kids because of games, or someone shooting themselves because their character died. It is important to remember that these are games, and there is an addiction to them. Have fun playing and there is plenty of time for you to kill that big boss for that uber item for your character.