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Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

Internet Addiction

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WHAT IS INTERNET ADDICTION

According to the Australian Department of Health, “Internet Addiction” is an all-encompassing term to express the compulsive need an individual may experience to interact with the internet (Department of Health & Human Services, 2009). In today’s world, it is normal for anyone to want to spend time serving the internet, however, what separates an Internet addict from the average internet user, is the obsession for the act, which further leads to negative effects towards one’s relationships and general wellbeing.

CyberSafeTT defines Internet Addiction as the excessive and uncontrollable consumption of internet related content* resulting in a deterioration of a persons’ mental, physical and social wellbeing.

WHY IS KNOWING ABOUT INTERNET ADDICTION IMPORTANT

Knowing about internet addiction is important because it helps individuals and society recognize and address the potential negative impacts of excessive internet use on mental health, relationships, and productivity. Awareness enables early intervention, promotes healthier online habits, and guides the development of strategies and policies to prevent and manage addiction, ultimately fostering a more balanced and fulfilling life.

A significant number of people remain uninformed about internet addiction, its symptoms, risks, and the impact it can have on mental health and daily life. This knowledge gap can hinder effective prevention and intervention efforts. However, there have been studies in recent years which have attempted to document and determine the negative aspects of excessive internet usage.

A 2012 study conducted in Cyprus International University on 126 students aimed to determine the relationship between internet addiction and psychological symptoms. It was revealed that there is a directly proportional relationship between internet addiction and various psychological symptoms such as somatization, obsessive-compulsive behaviors,depression, anxiety, hostility, paranoid thoughts, and many others (Adalıer & Balkan, 2012).

In a 2018 study on “Internet addiction and its relation to psychopathology and self-esteem among college students”, significant correlations between internet addiction and psychological factors such as depression, anxiety, and interpersonal sensitivity were found. Additionally, low self-esteem was observed among students who were potentially prone to excessive internet use. The study noted that excessive internet usage affected their social life and their relationship with their family (Kumar, Manish, and Anwesha Mondal, 2018).

A research article published in 2013 surveyed 392 french young adults, who reported having Internet Addiction, in an attempt to identify a relationship between Internet addiction and self esteem, body image avoidance, and disordered eating. The study found that body image avoidance was present in both male and female participants with Internet addiction. Additionally, internet addiction and body image avoidance were both predictors of disordered eating among women  (Rodgers, Rachel F et al, 2013).

In the 2016 study, “Impact of Internet Literacy, Internet Addiction Symptoms, and Internet Activities on Academic Performance”, a sample of 718 children and adolescents, aged 9–19, in Hong Kong participated in face-to-face interviews. The results indicated that adolescent internet addicts are more likely to be males from low-income families, and lack confidence in locating, browsing, and accessing information from multiple resources . Despite this, they are technologically adept and frequent users of social networking sites (SNS) and online games for leisure . The study found a significant and positive correlation between these leisure-oriented internet activities and internet addiction. This suggests that activities such as using SNS and playing online games are more addictive than other online applications, such as emailing or browsing web pages (Leung, Louis, and Paul S. N. Lee, 2016).

Understanding internet addiction is crucial as it illuminates the profound impact of excessive internet use on individuals and helps raise awareness of the associated mental health risks, strained relationships, and diminished productivity. Informed individuals can take proactive steps towards healthier online habits.

SIGNS OF INTERNET ADDICTION

There are different thought patterns and behaviors which an internet addict may experience. By knowing these signs, you may be able to analyze your experience and determine whether to seek further help or not. The signs are as follows;

  1. You may find yourself constantly needing to spend more time on the internet in order to feel satisfied.
  2. In moments when you are physically unable to access the internet, such as a power outage or school/office internet-use policies, you may experience uneasiness,anxiety or excessive thoughts about internet usage.
  3. When experiencing negative emotions, you may find yourself instantly reaching for internet-related activities such as scrolling through your TikTok feed.
  4. You might find yourself falling behind on various work or school deadlines and projects because you prioritize internet use over these important responsibilities.
  5. You may be willing to sacrifice time with friends or family, or studying in favor of spending time online.
  6. Development of physical health issues as a result of the internet, including back or neck pain, headaches,dry eyes and insomnia.
  7. Feelings of shame, guilt or frustration at your inability to control your internet use.
  8. Continuous Failed attempts at reducing or stopping your online activity.

 

Medical opinion remains divided on the subject of internet addiction due to the complex interplay of various factors. This difficulty prevents experts from determining whether internet addiction is a distinct disorder or a behavior stemming from another underlying mental health condition. For example, a student who spends an excessive amount of time on social media platforms may not necessarily have an addiction to the internet but could instead be struggling with a need for social validation or fear of missing out (FOMO).

Therefore it is important to consider seeking help from a medical professional before self-diagnosing one’s compulsion to spend time on the internet.

TIPS FOR MAINTAINING A HEALTHY BALANCE

It is natural to want to spend time on the internet given the endless information, entertainment, and social connections that the platform offers, however, excessive usage can lead to addiction. Nonetheless, not everyone who spends a lot of time on the internet inevitably becomes an addict, the difference lies in the management strategies employed in one’s usage practices and habits.

There are many ways you can maintain a healthy balance in spending time online, such as ;

  1. Self-Monitoring and Awareness Practices: Regularly assess your internet usage patterns by using tracking apps to monitor your screen time and identify any concerning trends. Being aware of your usage can help you make necessary adjustments before it becomes problematic.
  2. Take Control of your Time and Schedule: Allocate specific times for work, study, and leisure, and stick to these schedules. Try to be as realistic as possible in the beginning. For instance, if after self-monitoring your online habits, you’re determined  your screen time is eight(8) hours a day online on average, then immediately reducing it to one(1) hour per day may be impractical. Start by gradually decreasing your screen time over a period of a few weeks, by a reasonable amount. You may also find it useful to set specific goals and limits for online activities. For example, you can use timers or apps to remind you when it’s time to take a break from internet usage.
  3. Seek Alternative Sources of Enjoyment: Find alternative activities that provide similar satisfaction and enjoyment as being online. This could include reading books, pursuing creative hobbies/projects, exercising, playing sports, or volunteering at local events/community centers. Additionally, prioritizing these offline activities and face-to-face interactions can provide a healthy balance and reduce the reliance on the internet for entertainment and social fulfillment.
  4. Designate No-Internet Zones and Times: Create specific areas in your home, such as the dining room or bedroom, where internet use is not allowed. Similarly, designate certain times of the day, such as during meals or before bedtime, as internet-free periods to encourage healthier habits, such as mindfulness and socialization.
  5. Set Realistic Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries for internet use, especially for activities like social media, gaming, or streaming and be sure to communicate these boundaries with family members or friends to ensure mutual support in maintaining a healthy balance. A support system may play an important role in internet time management due to the extra accountability it offers. For instance, trying to reduce screen time on a video game that you play with your friends, when you are all committed to screen time reduction may be easier than trying alone. This is because your friends may encourage you in better habits, as opposed to depending solely on your own mental capacity.

TIPS TO DEAL WITH INTERNET ADDICTION

For those already struggling with internet addiction, taking steps towards recovery is essential for reclaiming control over your life and well-being. Some such steps are as follows;

  1. Acknowledge the Problem: The first step in addressing internet addiction is recognizing and acknowledging the issue. Reflect on how internet usage is affecting your life, relationships, and responsibilities. Acceptance is crucial for initiating positive change.
  2. Seek Professional Help: If internet addiction becomes unmanageable, seeking help from a mental health professional is advisable. Therapists can provide guidance, support, and tailored treatment plans to address the underlying causes of addiction and develop healthier coping mechanisms.
  3. Join Support Groups: Participating in support groups for internet addiction can provide a sense of community and shared experiences. These groups offer a platform to discuss challenges, share strategies, and receive encouragement from others facing similar issues.
  4. Develop Healthy Coping Mechanisms : Along with the help of a medical professional, identify and practice healthy coping mechanisms to manage stress, anxiety, and boredom without resorting to the internet. Techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing exercises can be beneficial in reducing the urge to go online.

Maintaining a healthy balance with internet usage requires conscious effort, self-discipline, and the implementation of practical strategies. By setting limits, prioritizing offline activities, and seeking professional help when necessary, individuals can effectively manage their internet usage and prevent addiction. Developing a well-rounded lifestyle with diverse interests and strong offline connections can ultimately lead to a healthier and more fulfilling life.

 

REFERENCES

  1. “Internet Addiction – Better Health Channel.” Www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au, www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/internet-addiction#signs-of-internet-addiction.
  2. Adalıer, Ahmet, and Emre Balkan. “THE RELATIONSHIP between INTERNET ADDICTION and PSYCHOLOGICAL SYMPTOMS.” International Journal of Global Education (IJGE) ISSN: 2146-9296, vol. 1, no. 2, 30 Apr. 2012, www.ijge.net/index.php/ijge/article/view/55.
  3. Kumar, Manish, and Anwesha Mondal. “A study on Internet addiction and its relation to psychopathology and self-esteem among college students.” Industrial psychiatry journal vol. 27,1 (2018): 61-66. doi:10.4103/ipj.ipj_61_17
  4. Rodgers, Rachel F et al. “Internet addiction symptoms, disordered eating, and body image avoidance.” Cyberpsychology, behavior and social networking vol. 16,1 (2013): 56-60. doi:10.1089/cyber.2012.1570
  5. Leung, Louis, and Paul S. N. Lee. “Impact of Internet Literacy, Internet Addiction Symptoms, and Internet Activities on Academic Performance.” Social Science Computer Review, vol. 30, no. 4, Nov. 2012, pp. 403–418, https://doi.org/10.1177/0894439311435217.
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