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Are you addicted to the internet?

24th June 2013

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bright computerResearchers at the University of Kentucky believe that somewhere between 0.3% and 38% of the United States population is addicted to the internet.

At a time when the internet can be accessed via computers, phones and even television, it is unsurprising that internet addiction is a growing problem.

The researchers add that internet addiction can be difficult to detect but the problem is much more widely diagnosed in Europe and Asia than it is in the US.

However measures have been taken to combat the issue, with America’s first residential-addiction centre, called RESTART, set up outside Seattle.

The centre only treats over-18s, but hears from parents wanting to send their 12-year-olds.

The problem is likely to only get greater in the future as young people who have been bought up computer-literate will be even more susceptible to internet addiction problems.

Many experts conclude that prospects for future generations look bleak.

The well-known American psychiatrist Dr Keith Ablow argues that it will lead to the “greatest psychiatric epidemic of all time,” causing a “loss of reality and sense of self” as people begin to spend the life more on the internet than in the real world.

Similarly Baronness Susan Greenfield, a neuroscienist and professor of pharmacology at Oxford University, asks “How can you seriously think that people who work like this are the same as people 20 or 30 years ago? Whether it’s better or worse is another issue, but clearly there is a sea change going on and one that we need to think about and evaluate.”

In response, the American Academy of Paediatrics recently published guidelines on how to teach children to use the internet in moderation.

It says that excessive social media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity.

How do you know whether you are suffering from internet addiction? The researchers provide the following symptoms:

  • Changes in mood
  • Preoccupation with the internet and digital media
  • Inability to control the amount of time spent using digital technology
  • The need for more time or a new game to achieve a desired mood
  • Diminishing social life
  • Adverse work and academic consequences

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