- Mental Health
How to cope with being ensnared by the internet:the symptoms and consequences of internet addiction
Love it or hate it, you cannot live without it. The use of the internet for school, work and social purposes has made it an uncomfortable yet necessary companion. The net is a means of communication and is a tool that you cannot do without, yet It makes you susceptible to addiction.
Indeed, the internet is now a firmly entrenched, undeniable part of life. It is so compelling for some people that their use has grown into an unhealthy obsession. You may not be aware that you have developed the addiction yourself. How do you spot the signs that your internet use has become an obsession and how do you stop it?
Teens represent a group that displays one of the highest tendencies for internet addiction.Teachers of youth brush often with the evil face of the internet. They surface in less threatening forms; students absent themselves from school because they spent the entire night online. Some forms of internet addiction may be more serious in nature, including the obsession with less healthy adult sites.
To relate a personal story, I discovered a student’s internet addiction when he gave me a thumb drive supposedly containing a project that I had assigned for presentation in English class. He did not realize that it was the wrong thumb drive and I stumbled upon his rather uncomfortable secret of addiction to internet pornography and adult sites.
The required action was taken and the child, a sixteen-year-old, was given mandatory counseling. His parents, not aware that their child was so drawn to the internet, were given suggestions for limiting his use.
Forms of internet addiction
Loosely described, internet addiction would, of course, mean excess access to the web. However, internet addiction can be divided into a few broad categories.
Internet addiction: adult sites
Adult sites lead to sexual addiction, and unique challenges on the net make it difficult to combat. These include the anonymity, privacy, and ease of access to these websites. Sexual addiction is something that is easily hidden from others because one can spend hours in a room logging on to unhealthy media and indulging in fantasies that are impossible in reality. Compulsive activity can lead to the damaging of physical relationships, career, and even one’s emotional health.
Internet addiction: Online gambling
We are all aware of the problems that gambling can present. Internet gambling has heightened them in many ways because it has made it difficult for recovering addicts to kick the habit. Those who do not live near casinos or race tracks find it easy to place bets and gamble online. Numerous relapses of gambling addiction can occur.
Internet addiction: cyber-relationships and cyber bullying
More and more teens and young adults are using the internet as a means of socializing and forming friendships. Indeed, friends made over the web can become even more important than those made offline.
I have seen teenagers take these relationships all too seriously. They become excessively upset when someone online makes an offensive remark. There are many cases of students who refuse to come to school because they had altercations online the night before; this is one of the unpleasant consequences of excess internet use.
Many romantic relationships form online, and success stories emerging from these relationships are plenty. The internet is a fantastic place to interact. However, online relationships can become too intense owing to high levels of privacy and secrecy. They can be deceptive; people lie about the weight, job, age, and even put up false photos or avatars of themselves on social networks. Profound emotional disappointment arises when one party discovers that the other is not who he made himself out to be in person.
Other net compulsions
Trading in stocks over the internet or online shopping on a site like eBay are internet activities that can turn into addictions. It is not unknown for eBay addicts to get up at odd hours to catch the final hours of an auction. They experience the things they don not need much of the time to satisfy the feeling of winning the bid. It is also not foreign to hear of excessive dabbling in stocks over the internet.
Compulsive gaming is also common among the young of today, who isolate themselves for hours at a time participating in virtual reality or fantasy games, neglecting homework, friends, and family.
Signs of internet addiction
Signs of internet addiction
You may have a child or someone in the family who is a rather heavy internet user. You may be active netizen yourself. How can you tell if our netizenry has become an obsession?
Losing track of time
If you find yourself losing track of time when you are online, the Web may have trapped you; Getting irritated or snappy when your time on the net is interrupted is a sign that you are devoting too much time to it.
Having trouble completing other tasks.
Many teenagers compromise school activities and homework for the internet. Finding that you have uncompleted takes because you have spent too much time on the net is a clear sign that you have an undue attachment to it.
Avoiding social activity
You may find yourself avoiding family or other social events because you have to spend your time online. You may feel that no one in your life, understands you as well as the friends you make on the web. Prioritizing Internet relationships over physical ones signals excess internet activity.
Guilt of defensiveness
A sign that you may be addicted to the internet is when someone tells you to ‘put that phone down’ when you are eating or when you are in the midst of a conversation. Out of guilt, you may get into an argument with them over the situation.
However, what they say about you being too attached to your smartphone or IPAD may not be off the mark. If you react defensively in the face of their accusations, you may be more obsessed with it than you think.
When you draw the most pleasure from being online than anywhere else, it may mean that you have used it a bit too much. You may have become part of the virtual world and lost some touch with reality. If the internet is the only outlet you have for our frustrations, you may have an addiction. When you try to limit our time on the net but fail, it may be too high on our priority list.
Physical Signs of Internet Addiction may include:
- Carpal Tunnel’s Syndrome or pain in the hands and wrists, an ailment suffered by many who have to spend hours using the computer
- Dry eyes and worsened vision
- Backaches and neckaches
- Sleep disturbances
- Pronounced weight gain or loss
The consequences of internet addiction
Internet addiction may seem like a trite, poor habit, but it can have severe consequences.
A person with internet addiction may have adverse social relationships or even engage in antisocial behavior. I have had students who were internet addicts repeatedly hack my facebook account.
It can give a person a deluded view of romantic relationships.Those who repeatedly access adult sites may slowly develop a deluded view of sexual interaction and relationships. Further, too much time spent on the internet at the expense of work will have heavy consequences for one’s career.
Some groups of people tend to spend more time on the computer for various reasons, making them more prone to the snares of the adverse side of the web. These groups are
Teenagers, whose need for friendship drives them to make friends via social media;
People prone to depression,anxiety attacks or anxiety issues;
People who have had prior addictions;
Those who are home bound and less active
Coping with internet addiction
This depends on whether it is for yourself, a child or helping another adult cope with the negative effects of being too drawn to the internet. There are many ways we can help ourselves and others cope with the obsession.
- Ask yourself what you are missing out on when you spend too much time on the net. You may find that there are many activities you could be doing.
- Set user limits for yourself and take frequent breaks from the net.
- Mix with those who cannot care less about the net. This will raise awareness that there are other things to do than be on the web!
- Make sure you stay connected to the outside world. Set aside time for shopping and other offline activities.
- Remember that the internet is a tool that should be used for the correct purposes.
Helping a friend with internet addiction
If the person ensnared by the web is your friend, there are a few things that you can do to get him back on track.
- Be a good role model and use the internet sensibly yourself.
- Introduce your friend to others who role model the sensible use of the internet.
- Get your friend involved in activities unrelated to the internet to help him to become aware that there are possibilities other than being online.
- Support them in their change if they really want to and strongly encourage them.
Tips for managing a child’s internet use
If you have a child who needs help managing internet addiction, there are a few things you can do help him steer it.
Have a chat with your child about his internet use. Find out why he is spending so much time on the computer. There may be underlying reasons, like an escape from reality or inability to manage social relationships online. Find out what he is addicted to, be it gaming or online friendships. Explain to him or her why you will have to step in and regulate his internet usage, without launching personal attacks.
Move the computer to the living hall or an open area. Doing this will enable you to see what your child is doing on the internet, and slowly discourage long hours on the web. Set a password that only you will know and access. The child will slowly become discouraged from excess internet usage because he has to seek your approval before using the computer.
Establish the rule that the internet can only be used for education. Be sure though, to check that your child really is using the net for that purpose. He may use the time instead to play games or socialize.
Set rules that the computer may only be used for a certain period of time. If he cannot control his addiction, use a timer.
Be aware of what your child is doing on the computer. Check the browser history to see what websites he is visiting. Do not, however download software that may be an infringement on privacy rights.
Set boundaries. Assign chores or take away privileges if your child is spending too much time using the computer. If you have more than one computer, then monitoring them may be necessary to see if your child is not secretly using them.
Helping someone to overcome his addiction may put you in situations where there may be tussles over privacy issues. Do remember to respect privacy, while maintaining the need to help the sufferer over come the addiction.
If helping yourself to over come an addiction, do not lose heart. As with many addictions, this is one that can be over come with determination.
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