Internet Addiction in Context

Internet Addiction in Context

Petra Vondrackova (Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic) and David Šmahel (Masaryk University – Brno, Czech Republic)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch366

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Introduction

Internet addiction can be defined as the overuse of the Internet such that it leads to the impairment of an individual’s psychological state (both mental and emotional), as well as their scholastic, occupational, and social interactions (Beard & Wolf, 2001). Young (1998) describes Internet addiction as any online-related compulsive behavior that completely dominates the addict’s life, interferes with normal living, and causes severe stress to family, friends, loved ones, and one’s work environment.

From a historical perspective, in 1996, the American clinical psychologist Kimberley Young (1998) published the results of a two-year study of Internet behavior and misuse, and was the first to place the phenomenon of Internet addiction in a clinical context. This study received widespread public attention, and popular and professional debate. Since the 1990s, Internet addiction has attracted the attention of professionals around the world, mainly from developing and developed countries with widespread Internet access. Some countries, such as the United States, China, South Korea, and Germany, even began developing the first specialized centers focused solely on this phenomenon (Block, 2008). Nevertheless, inconsistencies regarding the terminology still exist. Usually the term “Internet addiction” is used. However, some researches do not agree with using the term “Internet addiction” and use several others, such as “Internet addiction disorder” (Chou, Condron, & Belland, 2005), “compulsive Internet use” (Black, Belsare, & Schlosser, 1999), “Internet pathological use” (Davis, 2001), “problematic Internet use” (Caplan & High, 2011), and “Internet dependency” (Wang, 2001), each of which reflects a slightly different conception of this behavior. In this text we will use the term “Internet addiction” as an umbrella term for all of these term modifications.

In this chapter, we will first present a short historical overview of the Internet addiction phenomenon and its place in the context of mental health. We will then introduce the contributions of major researchers who focused on defining its core components, designing measurement scales and diagnostic criteria. Furthermore we will focus on the main areas of research in this field: the major surveys regarding prevalence rates and the correlates of Internet addiction. In the last section, we will introduce basic approaches to the treatment of Internet addiction.

The term “Internet addiction” is very broad. It refers to different kinds of overuse of the Internet. Starcevic (2013) stated that the term “Internet addiction” should be abandoned because individuals do not usually get addicted to the Internet in general, but to specific online activities; therefore, being addicted to the Internet implies addiction to a delivery mechanism or to a medium for achieving something. He states that it would be more accurate and appropriate to refer to specific activities that are presumed to be addictive. Some of the most typical online activities related to Internet addiction include online gaming (typically but not only Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games - MMORPGs), excessive online communication (email, chat rooms, and social networking), cybersex activity overload (visiting online pornographic sites and initiating cybersex relationships), and online gambling (betting via the Internet) (Subrahmanyam & Smahel, 2011). Due to limited space, this chapter does not focus specifically on any of these activities; it focuses on Internet addiction in general.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Internet Addiction Treatment: Refers to treatment approaches for Internet addiction.

MMORPG: Is the acronym for massive multiplayer online role-playing games, which are online games where a player is able to play with other people all around the world.

Cybersex: Is a virtual sexual encounter between two or more people connected via the Internet.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: (DSM) provides a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders. It is published by the American Psychiatric Association.

International Classification of Diseases: (ICD) is a list of mental and behavioral disorders published by the World Health Organization.

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