Teen Internet Addiction
Drugs can damage a teen’s brain, body and cause serious
problems their young lives. Alcohol and many other substances can do the same
thing. But can the Internet cause similar problems? More and more experts
believe so and a recent study suggests that there is a possibility it can. At Family Bootcamp, we take internet
addiction very seriously and believe that it is an issue that needs to be
addressed among many teens today.
A recent study of 17 adolescents with Internet addiction showed significant "abnormalities" in areas of the brain associated with emotional processing and decision-making. Areas of decreased "white matter integrity" were found in parts of the brain traditionally associated with addictions, like the orbitofrontal cortex, the area immediately behind the eyes, and the area that connects the two halves of the brain, known as the corpus callosum. In short, is suggests that your brain responds to Internet addiction much like a drug.
Though the study is small, the authors say that it provides evidence of the real physical consequences of Internet overuse, and may give early indications for treatment options. Internet addiction is a fairly new and loose name for a set of symptoms that include using the Internet for many hours at a time, to the point where it interferes with normal life. There is currently some debate as to whether it should be included in the DSM V as a listed mental health disorder.
Teen Internet addiction is marked by a progressive loss of control over one’s ability to avoid, regulate, or limit a behavior. Teen Internet addiction tends to be found more among those struggling with disorders such as depression, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), anxiety, poor self-image, and low self-esteem. For teens who have difficultiy with “real life” social situations, the power, sense of community, and adrenaline rush of online gaming can be extremely enticing and often leads to an internet addiction.
Common characteristics of an internet addiction include:
Tolerance-Needing to play more and more in order to experience the same “rush”
Obsession -Spending most offline time thinking about past online experiences and planning for future online sessions
-Frustration, anxiety, and/or irritability when not able to go online
-Continuing to spend time online even after negative repercussions (such as school problems, deteriorating relationships, and even health problems)
-Friends are “viritual” or on-line friends that he/she has not met in person
-Most non-school hours are spent on the computer or playing video games
-Falling asleep in school
-Deterioration of academic performance
Lying and hiding internet use
-Preference to being on-line rather than face to face contact with friends
-Dropping out of sports and other social activities
-Anger and irritability when away from the computer
-Poor personal hygiene
-Headaches, back and neck pain
-Dry eyes and vision problems
If a teen consistently displays an inability to stop spending time online, even when their internet use is creating problems in other areas of life, then an internet addiction may be present. Family Bootcamp is the ideal intervention for assisting parents and teens in finding solutions for avoiding the development of an internet addiction.