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Internet Addiction Among Young Adults: Is There Really a Problem?

The internet is huge these days- it’s a mecca of business and social media that connects the world and provides more and more opportunities that are typically out of reach without it. While it’s difficult to adequately address the overall importance of the internet, it’s also important to attempt to decide if some young adults truly are facing “internet addiction.”

The difficulty in prognosis of this problem is that it’s confusing and problematic to follow relationships through different generations. To decide the level of addiction (if any), we must discern further than the typical “I can’t get them off the computer” or “they can’t live without Facebook” comments to get a little deeper into a complex and rapidly emerging topic of conversation for the youngest generation entering the world. It’s important to understand that with the vast amount of information and conversation that occurs on the internet, it has become a source of support and development of individual identity for some, more than can be achieved through normal means.

To Address Addiction, We Address the Following Ideas:

  • Does (the internet) affect their ability to work?
  • Does (the internet) affect their relationships?
  • How do they cope when they (can’t access the internet)?
  • Does (not accessing the internet) make them feel agitated?
  • How much time and energy do they spend thinking about (the internet)?
  • Are they spending much more time than initially intended (online)?
  • Is (the internet) causing more problems that potential benefits?

[Some excellent follow-up questions to establish the reasoning behind these problems can be found here (]

Note that these questions are not specific to the internet, these are the basic questions to determine if someone truly is addicted to an attitude, thing, or person. The difficulty is that no diagnosis currently exists to deal with the recognition of online addiction, which makes it hard to decide how to best approach the problem. While current research indicates those that use the internet heavily are more likely to develop depression and have negative effects on work- including psychological functioning, others suggest that high usage of the internet defines symptoms of other underlying conditions (both mental and health related) that the internet simply gives them access to, that they are undeniably addicted to (like shopping, sex, or gambling). Realistically, time spent on the internet isn’t always negative- building social networks and finding support positively influence life offline, the polar opposite of addiction.

Managing Problematic Usage

  • Explain to your young adult the issues you see about their usage in a non-accusatory, calm fashion. Acknowledge that there are positive benefits to being online, but you can see negatives, and wish to address them.
  • Work with your young adult (stressing that they’re making better adult decisions) to limit internet access
  • Remove internet devices from bedrooms and public spaces
  • Explore building offline social interactions by building new hobbies, encouraging sports, or finding other interest based activities
  • Figure out exactly what your young adult is finding appealing online and try to find them another way to achieve said happiness.

Remember that it’s important to be calm and practical. Getting upset or frustrated about addictions is integrally harmful to a happy relationship, when changes can be made with perseverance and understanding.

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