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The Online Obsession

Is it really possible to become addicted to the Internet?  This question has been getting attention lately due to a recent study published in the scientific journal, PLoS ONE* focusing on this very subject.  With all of us, especially kids, using the Internet more than ever before, it’s worth taking a closer look…

The study conducted by a research team lead by Hao Lei of the Chinese Academy of Sciences concluded that hours of Internet use might actually change your brain in similar ways to individuals who are addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Using a MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), the team scanned the brains of 35 female and male adolescents between the ages of 14 and 21.  Based on interviews about their behavior, 17 of these individuals were labeled as having IAD – Internet Addiction Disorder.   Disruption of nerve fibers that connect to areas of the brain that involve self-control, decision making and emotions was evident in the MRIs, showing a change in the brain’s white matter.

According to reStart**, an Internet recovery program, there are a number of signs that can point to addiction including increased time spent on the computer, failed attempts to control behavior, neglecting family and friends and craving more time on the computer…to name a few. 

Addiction is certainly not limited to youth but this and previous studies have made a connection between age and internet addition.   Whether it’s due to maturity issues or their very early introduction to the online world, there is a compelling argument that young adults may be more susceptible to become addicted than any other age group. 

It’s important for parents to focus much of their energy on who’s talking to their child online and what is being said by him or others in social media forums, but it’s also necessary to be mindful of the actual time spent staring at the computer or smart phone.  It’s hard to imagine modern day life without instant access to Facebook, Google or anything else online, however unplugging and removing kids (and adults too!) on a regular basis from their cyber existence can help keep them on track with having a healthy perspective and balance between their virtual and real lives. 

*http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0030253

**http://www.netaddictionrecovery.com/the-problem/signs-and-symptoms.html

 

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