Excessive use of technology, such as cell phones and the Internet, could be detrimental to your real social connections and your overall well-being.
Do you feel anxious whenever you accidentally leave your phone at home? Do you have the urge to check your e-mail dozens of times a day? More and more people are spending time with their computers instead of with their families and friends. Problematic or pathological computer use could be causing decreased performance at work and school, straining of family and other interpersonal relationships, and the development or exacerbation of mental health illnesses.1
Individuals who exhibit problematic Internet use typically spend a significant amount of time engaged in online activity—time that might ordinarily be spent on family, professional, educational, or social activities. Numerous anecdotal reports of Internet addiction have described weekly Internet use in excess of 35 hours per week. The individuals described in these case reports consistently underestimated the amount of time devoted to online activities. It has been suggested that this tendency toward underestimation of time spent online could be because of impaired recollection or feelings of shame.2,3 Multiple studies have suggested that increased virtual interaction results in decreased interaction in the user’s real life outside the computer interface. This may lead to depression and feelings of social isolation. Although Internet use has not been specifically implicated as an etiologic factor in the development of depression, it has been associated with loneliness and psychological distress.4,5,6 Adverse social consequences related to problematic Internet use include academic failures, job losses, financial difficulties, legal problems, family conflicts, and divorce (mostly related to “cyberaffairs”).7,8
Those who are using the Internet excessively usually exhibit the following symptoms:
- Excessive use
- Increasing tolerance
- Negative repercussions
With all of this in mind, keep an eye on your children. It’s especially easy for them to spend several hours online every week without realizing it could be a problem.
1 Liu T, Potenza MN, “Problematic Internet use: clinical implications,” CNS Spectr 12, no. 6, p. 453-466 http://www.cnsspectrums.com/aspx/articledetail.aspx?articleid=1094 (accessed November 29, 2010).
3 Young KS, “Internet addiction: the emergence of a new clinical disorder,” Cyberpsychol Behav 11, p. 237-244.
4 Mythily S, Qiu S, Winslow M, “Prevalence and correlates of excessive Internet use among youth in Singapore,” Ann Acad Med Singapore 37, no. 1, p. 9-14.
5 Kraut R, Patterson M, Lundmark V, Kiesler S, Mukopadhyay T, Scherlis W, “Internet paradox: a social technology that reduces social involvement and psychological wellbeing?” Am Psychol 53, p. 1017-31.
6 Morahan-Martin J, Schumaker P, “Incidence and correlates of pathological Internet use,” Presented at the 105th Annual Convention of American Psychological Association, Chicago, IL, 1997.
7 Liu T, Potenza MN, “Problematic Internet use: clinical implications,” CNS Spectr 12, no. 6, p. 453-466 http://www.cnsspectrums.com/aspx/articledetail.aspx?articleid=1094 (accessed November 29, 2010).
8 Young KS, “Internet addiction: the emergence of a new clinical disorder,” Cyberpsychol Behav 11, p. 237-244.