Teen David Gowan was found in a distressed state wandering through a Dungarvan neighborhood, Waterford, Ireland, holding his smartphone above his head and looking for a Wi-Fi signal.
He was quickly brought to the nearest Starbucks to connect to Wi-Fi, and people at Waterford’s child protection services expressed amazement that the teen fared so well in such a situation, as there are adults who cannot go without internet for that long.
Rumors were circulating that the poor David had lost his ability to speak in any means other than his standard English, having survived for such a long time without using emoji.
Internet addiction is a huge problem worldwide, although the above may be a satirical account to poke fun at the idea of infantilized adults. This obsession, generally referred to as Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD), causes numerous issues and can even ruin lives.
It is estimated that it affects up to 8.2% of the population, with some sources theorizing that number could be as high as 38%.
Internet addiction is a behavioral addiction in which a person becomes dependent on the use of the Internet, or other online devices, as a maladaptive way of coping with life’s stresses.
Similar to substance abuse addicts, Internet addicts develop compulsive, destructive habits that interfere with their everyday life, as well as psychological dependence and withdrawal symptoms when Internet usage is stopped or reduced.
While it is not officially recognized as a disorder, researchers have formulated diagnostic criteria, and in countries like China and South Korea, it is identified as a national health problem.
While traditional treatment options are, experts are calling for the implementation of uniform diagnostic criteria and the inclusion of IAD in the DSM-V ( the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), to raise awareness and help the ones in need.
IAD is generally characterized by “many hours spent in non-work technology-related computer/Internet/video game activities.”
The Young of the Internet Addiction Questionnaire lists the following symptomatic diagnostic criteria for IAD:
- Mood change when attempting to stop internet usage,
- need to use the internet for increasing amounts of time,
- Unsuccessful efforts to stop using the internet,
- Staying online longer than intended,
- Lying about internet usage,
- Jeopardizing significant relationships or opportunities, and
- Escaping from a problem or seeking to relieve bad mood states with internet usage.
Other materials also list symptoms such as increased conflict with others, loss of other interests, withdrawal, and functional impairment.
Therefore, do not be afraid to reach out for help if you or someone you know has an issue with excessive Wi-Fi usage. It may be challenging but it can make a huge difference to your life quality, as internet addiction can have devastating effects on individuals, families, and particularly growing children and teens.
The first step is to recognize the problem, and from there, there are many useful techniques to address IAD.