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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Predicting Internet Addiction or Splitting Straws?

internet addiction

  • Problematic Internet Use (PIU) of male students is higher than that of female students. On the Problematic Internet Usage Scale (PIUS) male students scores are higher compared to female students on all subscales such as negative consequences of Internet (NCI; 17 items), social benefit/social comfort (SB/SC; 10 items), except on excessive use(EU; 6 items).

  • The students with psychological symptoms demonstrate more PIU.

  • The students using the Internet from mostly their homes may feel more also have higher PIU scores

  • Those students that use the Internet mostly at night also score higher on the PIU.

  • Using the Internet for social interactions is a risk factor in the development of PIU

  • Solely using the Internet for fun, passing time and feeling relieved can result in problematic Internet use.

  • Scores on the PIUS were not significantly higher for individuals with addiction problems than that of those having no addiction problems.

I am not a firm believer of Internet Addiction. That doesn't mean there is absolutely no problematic Internet use, or using the Internet for gambling or other forms of established addictions. People described as having Internet addiction can have problems and can suffer but this isn't due to the Internet but to other problems such as depression, anxiety and others. This research discussed here confirms this to my opinion.

In this article the authors gathered data from 437 students of a Turkish University. Most recent publications of Internet addiction are by Chinese authors, and the Chinese Government has a very special relationship with Internet. You can read about China's Crackdown on Internet in a post on this blog.

These Turkish students were send instruments to measure problematic internet use the PIUS
Problematic Internet Usage Scale (PIUS). The PIUS is a Likert-type scale developed with Turkish students by Ceyhan et al with the assumption that the severity of Internet use shows continuity from normal to pathologic use. The PIUS consists of 33 items rated on a 5-point scale ranging from not appropriate at all to very appropriate. The range of the PIUS scores varies between 33 and 165, and the high
scores on the scale indicate that an individual’s Internet usage is unhealthy and may create a tendency to Internet addiction.

Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI)
The BSI is composed of the items having the highest distinctive features of Symptom Checklist–90 (SCL-90). The score range of the BSI varies between 0 and 212, and the high scores on the scale indicate high frequency of the individuals’ psychological symptoms.

And a questionnaire developed by the researchers about addictions, online experiences, time of day surfing, and reasons for using the Internet was used.

These were healthy students, they didn't receive the questionnaires because they had complaints or were doing not well on school. One of the main features of addiction is having complaints, suffer complications of the addiction, this was not the case in student selection in this research. The main features of an addiction are social and/or emotional problems leading to doctors visit or other forms of help seeking. Moreover, withdrawal, tolerance, relapse are among the features of a real addiction.

Most of their findings can be explained. Male students use the Internet more to get social benefit/social comfort. This might be explained since males experience more difficulties in establishing intimate relationships, which is one of the developmental tasks, so they prefer communicating through the Internet rather than face to face and express their own feelings and thoughts better when online.

The fact that more psychological symptoms leads to more Internet use can be explained by the fact that the students who experience distress,difficulties, disturbances, and poor psychological well-being may use the Internet excessively for distraction, for coping with or avoiding their problems, and for social relief or rescue.

Using the Internet more at home is because this may be less restricted and cheaper.

So what we are looking for is teenagers using the Internet as there only way to communicate, play and doing that at night. Anyone can explain to them why that isn't healthy. Seeking help for psychological problems on the Internet can be of use but going to a professional for help is more efficient. Internet can't replace professional help yet.
Ceyhan, A.A. (2008). Predictors of Problematic Internet Use on Turkish University Students. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 11(3), 363-366. DOI: 10.1089/cpb.2007.0112


Anonymous said...

It seems misplaced to be looking at internet per se as the problem. The internet is just another way for people to access things they already had ways of being addicted to earlier - i.e. porn, gambling, gaming. Nobody would study, for example, blackjack addiction. You'd study gambling addicition in general. Studying problematic internet use seems to me akin to studying problematic use of tv, radio, books, magazines etc. Seems silly.

Dr. Shock said...

Indeed, Internet is just a technical accomplishment. Just like the telephone etc. Maybe it is just scary for some that fuels their concern and prevents them from seeing the bigger picture about addictions.
Regards Dr Shock