Internet addiction

The Internet and technology are a significant part of learning, as well as of the social life of today’s children. The Internet provides information, entertainment and communication available 24 hours a day, and at zero cost. The latest computers have high speed software and impressive graphics to meet the requirements of new games. The latest generation of games enforces the capacity of players to interact over the Internet in real time, thereby offering virtual social interaction. So, it is easy to conclude why children and adolescents spend so many hours in front of the computer. Of course, when use becomes abuse, we are talking about addiction, which is detrimental to many aspects of youngsters’ lives. Some of the problems that follow include social seclusion, loss of track of time while ‘surfing’, and poor grades. The term “Internet Addiction Disorder” (IAD), is increasingly becoming acceptable, since there is a plethora of studies that accept it as a psychological condition. Addiction to computers is certainly not the same as addiction to drugs. Researchers are attempting to categorize IAD based on the symptoms, which resemble those of addiction to gambling. It is most likely that it will constitute a separate category in itself, since the medical community is already discussing its inclusion in the new publications of ICD (European) and DSM (American) medical manuals. Finally, IAD exists, but what causes it? Whose fault is it, that of the www companies, or the person’s himself? Prohibiting use of the Internet is certainly not the solution.


The statistics

According to the first scientific data presented at the 6th Panhellenic Child Psychiatry Congress in Athens from 15 to 17 May, addiction of youngsters in Greece reached 8.2% among users. This percentage is considered to be very high, and is one of the highest globally. The age group most at risk includes students of secondary school age, and it should be mentioned, that boys are more likely to become addicted to the Internet than girls. In Norway the percentage of teenagers is 1.98%, in Germany 3%, in Italy 5.4%, and in South Korea 1.6%. In China, where things are much more serious, a percentage of 13% was referred to in 2006, resulting in the issue of new permits for Internet cafés being forbidden in 2007.  In addition, use was set to a limit of 3 hours, with a personal code for every minor that was using the Internet. Research by the Medical School of the famous Stanford University describes the condition in America, where 1 in 8 American users (12.5%) is reported to have medium-to-severe Internet addiction. Most people mention that it is hard for them not to use the Internet for a few days, that the Internet causes problems in their relationships, and, finally, that it is a means of escaping from reality. Indicatively, since 2004, Internet rehabilitation camps have become an established thing in China, as have clinics for digital rehabilitation in Amsterdam since 2006. Special medical centres have opened in most European countries.


It is a good idea for parents to be knowledgeable and alert if they recognise worrying signs in their children. There are many questionnaires about IAD, and by selecting the most significant symptoms, without this constituting them a diagnostic tool, guidance is provided for parents as to whether they should be worried or not.


– more than 4 hours of use of the Internet daily
– desire to increase the time of use of the Internet
– seclusion in his/her room
– depression due to excessive use of the Internet
– restlessness, easily annoyed
– disturbances to sleep or diet (omission of meals due to time spent on the Internet)
– decline in performance at school / skipping classes to go to Internet cafés
– reduction of social interaction and communication with the family
– denial of the problem
– where prohibition of the use of Internet is concerned, extreme reaction, anger, aggressive behavior
– avoidance of reality and dealing with problems


The 10 most common Addictions

1. Alcoholism
2. Smoking
3. Drugs
4. Gambling *
5. Food
6. Video-games *
7. Internet
8. Sexual *
9. Compulsive consumerism *
10. Work


* Computers can be also used in these addictions


Advice for parents

Observe potential symptoms of excessive use of the Internet. Excessive use (+3 hours) does not constitute a risk by itself. When the Internet causes irritability, melancholy, low self-esteem, decline in school performance, and problems with friendships and family relationships, be aware. First, examine your own Internet habits, if you use it, since you are a role model, and then organize a plan of action


Place the computer in a common area of the house and not in the child’s room, so that you can supervise easily and discretely. Talk to your child about the excessive use of the Internet, and discover if there is a special reason for the abuse. After the conversation, try to set a time limit for use of the Internet, depending on the child’s schedule and the day. Initially, see if the child can observe the time limit, but this is quite difficult, since surveys have shown that only 5% manage to do this. The next step, in order to avoid animosity and tension, is the installation of special software, which operates as a time switch (Internet timer software). So, after you have agreed on the time limit, let the software do its job. In addition, you can discreetly check the child’s activities by looking at the browser history (Internet Explorer). Caution: forbidding use of the Internet is not recommended, since it is part of the social life of today’s young people. Don’t forget that the time children gain away from the Internet should not be replaced with television, video-games, or mobile phones. Alternatively, show an interest in the Internet games children are playing online, so that you can suggest similar methods of entertainment, such as a board game or a fiction book. Encourage your child to get involved with sports and/or other extra-curricular activities.


The Internet is not your enemy; it can be used in many situations, and is convenient, making your every-day life easier. Digital interaction is not harmful if the user does not neglect his personal life, his relationships, his work, and his duties in general. Like many other things in life, the Internet requires limits.


John is 13 years old, and his parents bought him a computer to help him with school projects. Having the computer in his room, John quickly discovered chat rooms and email. At first, his parents supervised him discreetly for safety reasons, but after a while they stopped observing him. Soon, the first problems emerged. John began spending all his free time on the computer, and he was annoyed when he was asked to participate in family activities. His grades gradually fell from 18 to 14, and he was permanently annoyed when he wasn’t using the Internet. John is a child that belongs to the high risk group for Internet addiction.


The story is imaginary.


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Panagiotis Samaras
Mphil, PgDip, BSc Hons
Teacher – Psychologist


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