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Internet Addiction and College Students

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Internet addiction will garner our attention in 2008. It has actually been a concern since the dawn of the web. While the trend is not a new one, it is an important one. There are numerous things on the internet to occupy large amounts of your time – online discussions, gambling, porn, IM, and/or interactive role-playing games. Whatever you are looking for, you’ll find it on the internet.

Between 5 and 10% of web users suffer from some form of Internet dependency. This dependency is also known as Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD). The disorder was first described in 1995, but hasn’t yet been accepted by the American Psychiatric Association as a formal diagnosis. It is not included in the DSM IV as a mental illness.

There are ways to tell if you’re afflicted with IAD. These include: Spending more and more time online to achieve the same level of satisfaction and experiencing anxiety when not connected. You might notice your use, but find it difficult to cut down. You find reduce or forego important social, occupational or recreational activities in favor of time online. You may even be experiencing sleep deprivation, facing marital difficulties, losing friendships, and neglecting your job or school work to the point of risking being fired or flunking out.

IAD features most of the problems seen in all addictions. Researchers say three or more of the following conditions must be met to be considered IAD:

  • Developing a tolerance to the internet
  • Increasing internet usage steadily
  • Developing withdrawal symptoms
  • Surfing the internet for longer than was intended
  • Socially isolating oneself from friends or family members

A healthy relationship to the Internet depends on your individual circumstances. All you may need to do is develop time-management techniques to help you better control yourself. You could, for instance, set a daily online time limit of an hour a day. The Internet is a fantastic medium. It has dramatically altered how we communicate with one another and find information. But, as with most things in life, there’s a need to keep things in a healthy balance.

The key concept here is the surrendering of the will. If you no longer control your relationship to it – whether it’s an activity or a drug – you’re in trouble. The college student population may be particularly susceptible to problems related to Internet use, and more specifically – excessive Internet use. 28% of all Internet users are full-time college students. Accessibility to the Internet is clearly a factor in this overuse. Almost all colleges and universities have an Internet presence. They provide students the ability to access the World Wide Web (WWW), E-mail, IM, and other related Internet activities. Less socially inclined students may have difficulty establishing real-life relationships. They may find that the anonymity of the Internet provides them with less risky opportunities for developing virtual relationships. It is interesting to note that the difficulties these people have in real-life often appear in their internet identity. You may also see someone adopt the characteristics of a person they are not. Increased internet use contributed to a higher rate of academic dismissal, declines in social involvement, and increases in depression.

With these factors in mind, it appears that the college population is one that could be more susceptible to overusing or becoming dependent on the Internet. Internet addiction cannot be determined simply from the number of hours spent online; the context of the usage determines if there is a problem. There are four categories for those students experiencing addiction:

  • Users with a lack of impulse control.
  • Users who go online when they are lonely or depressed.
  • Users who seek social comfort.
  • Users who avoid coping with stresses

College students are vulnerable to IAD for a variety of factors. They may be having difficulty adapting to life away from home, depression, or social anxiety. Computers are readily available on college campuses, with many students using their own laptops and campus Wi-Fi. Many are still exploring their identities and sexuality. The anonymous nature of the Internet allows them to do that. Communicating inexpensively is often given as a reason for extensive internet use.

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