Featured Topic: Are you chained to the Internet?
One of the great ironies of discussions about Internet addiction is that online access is often required to read them! The increasing ubiquity of the Internet—seeping into all aspects of our everyday lives—means that it can be difficult to disengage from, even when we’re aware that our usage is approaching overdependence.
Oktan (2011) stated that Internet addiction is characterized by “failing to control, decrease, or stop Internet use; needing to increasingly use the Internet; and staying logged on longer than planned” (p. 1426). As noted by Lee, Park, and Lee (2016), aside from being a problem in and of itself, Internet addiction has a widespread impact on users’ daily lives, including relationship, financial, academic, occupational, and physical areas.
Following the greater commercialization of the Internet in the 1990s, SBP authors Ami Rokach and Félix Neto (2000) suggested that the trend toward increasing Internet use contributes to greater “social alienation, limited contact with others (within and outside one’s family), and loneliness” (p. 332). To address this lack of social interaction, Wu (2014) explained that “some users create a virtual persona on the Internet that is different from their real-life personality” (p. 541). While using the Internet to make social connections can be beneficial for lonely individuals, Wu also found that once users go beyond a moderate level of Internet use and spend too much time advancing their online persona, offline interpersonal relationships end up being compromised.
In a financial context, Internet addiction is closely related to online gambling and shopping (Wang & Yang, 2008). The convenience and accessibility of the Internet mean it is relatively easy to engage in compulsive gambling and purchasing of unnecessary items, and the less tangible exchange of money online (e.g., via credit card) compared to paying with cash in a brick-and-mortar store can mean online gamblers and shoppers overspend without realizing it.
In the school room, digital media are becoming almost a necessity for teaching, so Liu (2011) provided seven principles for helping students to avoid Internet addiction in the academic context. Among the suggestions he set forth were using online games for brief intervals rather than extended periods of time, ensuring information gained from digital forums is transferable to real-world situations, and ending online sessions with teacher-guided discussions among the whole class. Learning to avoid uncontrolled use of the Internet while still at school could help students to form good habits for the future, when they must self-regulate their frequency and type of online access.
Also in the academic sphere, Beyazıt, Şimşek, and Bütün Ayhan (2017) found that high school students with more exposure to online technologies experienced higher levels of both cyberbullying and traditional bullying. A key recommendation for students to cope with this situation was to offer education in schools about information technology communication. Keeping in mind that the negative consequences of Internet addiction—such as increased exposure to cyberbullying—are not limited to adolescents, the workplace could be an equally effective location for seminars on appropriate and effective online communication. We might like to think that juvenile behavior is left behind upon graduation but a look at the comments section of major online publications or blogs is often enough to show otherwise!
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The predictive relationship between emotion management skills and Internet addiction – Vesile Oktan, 2011, 39(10), 1425–1430.
The interplay of Internet addiction and compulsive shopping behaviors – Seungsin Lee, Jungkun Park, and Sukhyung Bryan Lee, 2016, 44(11), 1901–1912.
Coping with loneliness in adolescence: A cross-cultural study – Ami Rokach and Félix Neto, 2000, 28(4), 329–342.
Addictive behavior in relation to the Happy Farm Facebook application – Pi-Chu Wu, 2013, 41(4), 539–554.
Passion for online shopping: The influence of personality and compulsive buying – Chih-Chien Wang and Hui-Wen Yang, 2008, 36(5), 693–706.
Avoiding Internet addiction when integrating digital games into teaching – Eric Zhi Feng Liu, 2011, 39(10), 1325–1336.
An examination of the predictive factors of cyberbullying in adolescents – Utku Beyazıt, Şükran Şimşek, and Aynur Bütün Ayhan, 2017, 45(9), 1511–1522.