By: Presence Editing Team
Internet Addiction During the COVID-19 Pandemic
As we become more and more dependent on technology in this season of social distancing and quarantining due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both parents and kids have had to use screens and the internet to accomplish everyday tasks such as working, learning, staying in touch with others and even staving off boredom. With technology becoming more advanced, too, more gadgets are now readily available–such as the iPhone, iPad, etc.– and it is no surprise that most people, even children today, have easy access to these gadgets and reach for them without thinking. Many even use more than one on a regular basis. Students today are also required to use computers for distance learning since in-person classes have been suspended indefinitely. Meanwhile, social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok have become a main channel for social communication and interaction, especially after government mandates have discouraged in-person meetings. As “logging on” becomes a more widespread habitual behavior and necessity in light of the pandemic, internet addiction is likely to become inevitable as well.
What is Internet Addiction?
In 1996, Dr. Kimberly Young presented the first research paper on “Internet Addiction.” She characterized the concept of internet addiction as an impulse control disorder in relation to using the internet. She further suggested that the pathology of internet addiction shared some common characteristics with pathological gambling disorder. Internet addiction interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one’s work environment. Currently, the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) recognizes internet addiction in the section recommending conditions for further research (www.netaddiction.com).
How do You Know if You or Your Child are Internet Addicts?
Dr. Young developed the Internet Addiction Diagnostic Questionnaire (IADQ). The following are the criteria for diagnosing internet addiction. Meeting five of the symptoms below would characterize one as having internet addiction (www.netaddiction.com):
- Preoccupation with the internet (previous online activities or anticipation of the next log on)
- Increasing amount of time on the internet to achieve satisfaction
- Unsuccessful attempts to control and cut back
- Restlessness, moodiness, depression, and irritability caused by the cut back of use
- Staying online longer than expected
- Risking significant relationships, job, education, and/or career opportunities
- Lying to family members, therapists, and others about internet use
- Using internet as an escape from problems and/or to relieve unhappy feelings
What Causes Internet Addiction?
Clinical psychologist Dr. Melvin Wong said that life is not meant to be lived alone. Everyone has an innate desire to depend on others and be accepted by others. When there is a lack of healthy communication in a family or in the interactions between parents and children, children do not easily feel loved by their parents. As a result, children will not see that they are cared for and accepted. Children would attempt to use the internet to fill that void in their hearts. On the internet, they find themselves admired and accepted by others. Their identities can be kept anonymous. Therefore, they can be whoever they desire to be and do whatever pleases their hearts. As time goes on, they naturally become internet addicts. (Seminar from Dr. Melvin Wong on “Teenager’s Internet Addiction, How to avoid & overcome” 6/11/2010)
According to Dr. Agnes Ip, a PhD in clinical psychology and licensed marriage family therapist, what internet addicts do is that they choose temporary gratification in place of true intimate relationships. If internet addicts attempt to curb their behaviors by cutting back or stopping their internet use, but fail to do so, they will experience a loss of control. Consequently, they will suffer from low self-esteem and feel the pressing need to escape. This powerless feeling would fuel into their addictive behavior further.
In Part 2 of “Are Our Children Becoming Internet Addicts?”, we will explore the physical effects and prevention of internet addiction. Please stay tuned!
(Adapted from Presence Family Magazine, October 2010, Issue 1)
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