Internet Addiction and Media Issues
Basic Information

Internet Addiction and Media Issues

This center looks at the use of the internet and other forms of media in our lives.

In the first chapter, we look at the topic of Internet Addiction. The DSM-5 does not currently recognize Internet gaming disorder as an official diagnosis. Instead, proposed criteria have been placed in Section III, which lists proposed diagnoses for future consideration and further study. Nevertheless, compulsive Internet use is a serious problem for many people, and there are methods that can be helpful in alleviating this problem. This chapter looks at the background of the addiction, symptoms, and possible treatment methods.

In the second chapter, we look at the usage and effects of media on children. As used in this center, media refers to the vast web of communication and entertainment technologies and services that have become a commonpl...

 
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What is an internet addiction and what are the symptoms?

  • As the web has become a part of mainstream life, some mental health professionals have noted that a percentage of people using the web do so in a compulsive and out-of-control manner.
  • This phenomena of compulsive Internet use has been termed 'Internet Addiction' based on its superficial similarity to common addictions such as smoking, drinking, and gambling.
  • No one disputes that some people use the Internet in a compulsive manner even to a point where it interferes with their their ability to function at work and in social relationships. What is disputed is whether people can become addicted to the Internet itself, or rather to the stimulation and information that the web provides.
  • Mental health professionals who have written about the subject note symptoms or behaviors that, when present in sufficient numbers, may indicate problematic use including:
    • Preoccupation with the Internet
    • Loss of control
    • Inexplicable sadness or moodiness when not online
    • Distraction (Using the Internet as an anti-depressant)
    • Dishonesty in regard to Internet use
    • Loss of boundaries or inhibitions
    • Creation of virtual intimate relationships with other Internet users
    • Loss of a significant relationship due to Internet use

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How is an internet addiction treated?

  • Internet addiction is a problem of compulsive stimulation, much like drug addiction. Because of this similarity, well studied treatment procedures known to be useful for helping drug addicts towards recovery are adapted for use with Internet addicts when the need arises.
  • Because Internet addicts by definition will have difficulty moderating their use on their own, therapy techniques can be employed to help them to become more motivated to reduce their use, and to become more conscious of how they get into trouble with the Internet.
  • Motivational Interviewing may be employed to assess how motivated Internet addict may be to change their behavior and to help addicts to increase their motivation to make a lasting change.
  • Therapists will also generally help addicts to identify 'triggers' that lead to episodes of uncontrolled Internet use and then helping them to set realistic goals for their Internet use.
  • Therapists help patients to sustain this disciplined work by having them give weekly progress reports (either in individual or group therapy settings), or setting up (healthy) rewards that patients can earn when goals have been met for an agreed upon amount of time.
  • The bottom line when dealing with Internet Addiction is to identify triggers that lead to problematic use, to set realistic goals for reducing use, and to then stick to and monitor conformance with those goals, sharing this conformity data with someone else to encourage honesty and sticking to the plan.

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What dangers should I be aware of when my child is using the internet?

  • There is little to no policing of the Internet, and consequently, there are few dependable safeguards that protect children from coming into contact with illegal activity, age or value-inappropriate content, and unsavory, possibly dangerous individuals.
  • Present in media, particularly in online settings, is persuasive speech designed to get people to interpret events in the world in a particular way. Examples of such speech include biased news coverage on television or in newspapers; outright propaganda; outreach and recruitment programs of various churches, organizations, and cults; and hate speech.
  • They may take in and start to believe unhealthy messages beamed at them by advertisers and other special interest groups looking for converts.
  • Some of the material available for legal and illegal download on the Internet is adult in nature and is thus inappropriate for children to consume for reasons separate from piracy and illegal downloads that may break the law.
  • Children may end up over-sharing personal information within social networks and websites. Youth can have their identities stolen, just like adults. If thieves get enough of the right data, they can open up credit accounts in children's names and run up large bills, which can result in years of financial headache for parents and children to deal with.
  • A youth's over-sharing of private information can put families at risk for traditional theft such as home robberies, if, for example, a youth tweets or broadcasts on her blog that her family is visiting relatives out of state, the exact dates of the trip, and the family's address.
  • Children do not realize that a great deal of the Internet related posting they engage in is archived in some fashion or another and may remain searchable for years.
  • They may end up encountering child predators or cultivating unsupervised and inappropriate relationships.
  • Sexual predators, scam artists and other predatory criminal types can and sometimes do approach children who are participating in various online communities and attempt to initiate inappropriate relationships.
  • They may end up spending too much time isolated and immobile and not enough with friends and physical activities. Excessive use of media can end up being a replacement of physical exercise, of homework, and of important family and social relationship interaction time.

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How can I monitor and limit my child's use of the internet and media?

  • Parents can do a lot to protect their children from the majority of the risks and downsides associated with media, while still allowing them access to many of media's benefits.
  • The most important thing parents need to do in order to protect their children from the downsides of media is to become aware of what sorts of media children are consuming and then to take steps to limit children's access to forms of media that are age-inappropriate.
  • Adults can pay attention to what kids are watching on television when they walk through the living room, or pay attention to the lyrics on the radio playing in the car on the way to school.
  • Parents may also examine children's web browser history logs to see what sites their children have been browsing, and can examine the chat history on their children's instant messaging program on the computer, or the text logs on children's mobile phones.
  • Adults can look closely at their children's cell phone bills to see how many minutes their youths are talking, how many texts they're getting and receiving, what times of day they're communicating, and what phone numbers they're communicating with.
  • As children grow and develop a strong sense of individuality and independence, they may perceive parents' desire to monitor as an intrusion on their privacy and personal life. Parents need to respect this desire for privacy and to be sensitive and open with their children regarding their monitoring activities.
  • Talking openly about parental monitoring of youth's media use makes it easier for parents to monitor their children's media usage, while preserving trust between parents and children.
  • Open communication also helps parents to better understand their children's opinions about media, and provides an opportunity to educate children about proper media use.

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What do media ratings on music, movies and video games mean?

  • Companies that produce media in the form of movies, music, television, and video games all rate their content using standardized rating systems in an effort to alert parents and other caregivers to the type of material contained within each instance of media, and/or the minimum suggested age a child should be before consuming the media.
  • The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) labels music albums and some digital/online music downloads that they consider to contain sexually explicit or violent references in lyrics, foul language, or drug or alcohol abuse references.
  • Parents should consider that even when lyrics have been edited, smarter kids will still understand the underlying theme or suggestive content of songs.
  • The Motion Picture Association of America has developed a movie ratings system that categorizes movies with labels G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17 indicating a given movie's appropriateness for consumption by children.
  • The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has created a content ratings system indicating video games' age-appropriateness. It is a two-part labeling system that identifies an age-appropriateness label and a content descriptor.

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