Internet Addiction

Are You Entangled in the Net?

Brian Reinhardt, Ph.D.

The Internet permeates our lives.

Many of you are regular users of the Internet: researching for a paper, participating in a class listserv, communicating with professors and classmates via e-mail, Facebook, twitter, etc. The Internet is a wonderful resource for students, but sometimes people have problems setting limits with some of the available options such as chat rooms, MUDs (multi-user dimensions), and even e-mail. Like gambling, some people find that they spend hours and hours online looking for a "high."

Take Steven. He's a freshman, has few friends, and spends most of his time online in a MUD called LambdaMOO, a socially interactive game in which players take on the names of characters that compete in cyberspace by engaging in duels and fighting battles much like the old Dungeons and Dragons games. Outside of the cybercommunity, he has low self-esteem and is failing out in school. He stays online 60 to 70 hours each week.

Then there is Iesha, a senior, who is married and has two kids. She is having a cyberaffair in one of the popular chat rooms. Her school work, relationships, and part-time job are all suffering due to the amount of time she spends online. She has a history of substance abuse, which is not uncommon for those who have problems with Internet use.

What are the symptoms of Internet addiction? The Internet Addiction Test (IAT) was developed by Dr. Kimberly Young (1998), the author of Caught in the Net: How to Recognize the Signs of Internet Addiction - A Winning Strategy for Recovery. You can take this test online at no cost. Some of the symptoms include: thinking about getting online when you are off line; losing a sense of time while online; needing to spend more time online for the same highs; not moderating your use; feeling restless or irritable when you stop or cut down; escaping unpleasant feelings by going on-line; lying about your usage, and risking losing important things such as an education, family, career, friends, and money. So what can be done to address problems students are having with technological abuses and addictions?

1. Recognize what you are missing. Write down every activity or practice that you have neglected or cut back on since your Internet habit emerged (e.g., time with partner, studying, going out with friends). This is one way to begin to work through the denial of "everything is fine." Quitting cold turkey usually does not work. This may also be impossible for students that have requirements to be on a computer, the Internet, or those in jobs requiring computer work.

2. Assess your online time. Keep a log of the time you spend in each on-line activity including chat rooms, interactive games, e-mail, newsgroups, World Wide Web, and other Internet usage. How much is too much time online? The average weekly usage of "Internet addicts" in one study was 38 hours. Non-dependent users reported fewer than five hours per week.

3. Use time-management techniques. Identify your usage pattern and do the opposite. (e.g., if you check you e-mail first thing in the morning, try taking your shower first; if you are online during the week, try going online on weekends). Incorporate planned internet time into your weekly schedule. Keep sessions brief and frequent.

4. Find support in the real world. Get support from your partner, make amends with your family, reclaim time with your children.

5. Enter the social world that the campus offers. Find a club or organization that matches your interests. If you like to compose e-mail messages, consider writing a column for The Chanticleer or create a writers' circle or poets' society. Talk to classmates after class. Attend school events. Other support avenues include Counseling Services, online support groups, and in-person support groups.

If you would like more information regarding Internet addiction, contact Counseling Services (256-782-5475) to talk with a member of our professional staff.

Courtesy of California State University, Hayward