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How to recognize Internet Addiction Disorder?

Since March, practically all our everyday life has moved to the Internet. Home office, online learning, contacts with grandmothers, grandfathers, colleagues via telephone conversations or messengers. We now spend much more time in front of computers and screens of smartphones or tablets.

This situation, unfortunately, for many people, especially children and teenagers, can contribute to Internet addiction.

Internet addiction is a relatively new phenomenon and is not included in the list of mental illnesses or disorders (opposed to gaming disorder).

The Internet addiction syndrome was first observed in the mid-1990s, when Internet access was becoming increasingly common worldwide. Since then, research and attempts to qualify this phenomenon have been conducted.

Addiction itself is understood as a strong dependence of the body on performing a specific activity or taking a substance.**

There is currently no uniform definition of Internet addiction disorder (IAD). Some psychiatrists, including Dr. Ivan Goldberg ***, describe it as: “dependency syndrome involving the use of the Internet for hours, which is a source of distress for the patient and negatively affects his functioning in the physical, mental, interpersonal, social, family and economic sphere”. This term is also used in Poland.

Before isolation, excessive Internet use was a serious social problem. Especially in the case of children and young people for whom "being on-line" is an integral part of everyday life.

During the "I click sensibly" classes, often after the lesson, students shared with us their cyber-world problems. Teachers and the school counselors told us stories of students addicted to being online.

IAD, as any addiction, is difficult to treat. That is why it is easier to prevent it than to fight with it later. In such difficult times as we are faced with this year, it is worth ensuring also a digital hygiene. Let's try to make sure that apart from lessons and online entertainment, children spend time without access to the Internet. The school year will end soon and the weather outside will encourage you to spend time outdoors. Despite the restrictions, we need to help children maintain their balance.

How can you tell if your child is addicted to the Internet? Here are some questions to answer:
• How much time does your child spend on the Internet? Do you control it in any way?
• Does your child lie to you when you ask how much time he or she spend on the net?
• Is he or she aggressive, frustrated or anxious when he or she can't use the internet?
• Does he or she spend much more time in the virtual world than in the real world when contacting colleagues? For example, would he or she rather play online than go outside?
• Has your child’s behavior deteriorated? Has he or she become more agitated or nervous?
• Does it happen that he or she does not want to come to a meal and eats it in his or hers room while being in the virtual world?
• Does he or she have trouble falling asleep, because he or she doesn't want to get away from the virtual world?
• Does he or she have access to the Internet at night, which means he or she doesn't sleep enough hours to be rested?
• Does he or she have trouble concentrating, doesn't he or she know what was in class and has worse grades?
• Does he or she make uncontrolled finger movements that imitate pressing keys or mouse buttons in situations unrelated to the computer?
• When there is no access to the Internet, does he or she obsessively think what is going on in it?

If you observe several of the above-mentioned symptoms in your child, it may indicate an emerging or already existing problem of Internet addiction.

If you do not know what to do, you can get free anonymous help from specialists at 800 100 100 or by email help @ https: // on the Parents & Teachers' Child Safety Helpline.

This is a contact for parents who need support, information and psychological help for children who have problems such as: aggression and violence at school, cyberbullying and threats associated with new technologies, sexual abuse, contact with psychoactive substances, depression and depressed mood, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders.

*Badanie opinii publicznej w zakresie funkcjonowania rynku usług telekomunikacyjnych oraz preferencji konsumentów, Warszawa/Gdańsk 22.12.2018 r.,174.html
** Zimbardo PG. Psychologia i życie. PWN, Warszawa 1999; Ulman P. Społeczne i rodzinne uwarunkowania uzależnień u dzieci i młodzieży. Fides et Ratio 2011, 4(8): 74-86.