Internet Addiction a Growing Problem
When someone says the word addiction, most people automatically think drugs or alcohol. However, over the past decade a new type of addiction has emerged: Internet addiction. And it can be just as dangerous.
In 1994, there were 25 million Internet users worldwide. Ten years later the number jumped to 910 million. A decade later it more than doubled to 3 billion users in 2014. A 2012 survey by SodaHead showed 61 percent of Internet users feel addicted to it. In Spain, 25 percent of 16-to-24-year-olds show symptoms of Internet addiction, according to a December 5 report.
Though not classified as a clinical disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, more and more people are starting to recognize Internet addiction. Though many think it is not real, research has shown that people with Internet addiction experience significant changes in their brains. In most cases, the connections in the brain that control attention, executive control and emotion processing are altered. These are the same changes that occur in those addicted to cocaine, heroin and other substances. Other research has discovered that people hooked on the Internet have changes in how the brain’s dopamine system operates. Some have fewer dopamine receptors in certain areas, and other dopamine functions are impaired. Many use the Internet like a drug, experiencing euphoria when online and panicking while offline.
Internet addiction is any online-related behavior that interferes with normal living and makes the Internet a priority over family, friends and work. This includes excessive online gaming, social networking, online shopping, online gambling, Internet pornography and general surfing. Even things such as e-mailing, text messaging and compulsively checking smartphones or tablets are signs of an addiction.
In 2007, the average daily Internet usage was 2 hours and 10 minutes; two years later, it jumped to six hours. In 2013, the average time spent online was 11 hours. People now spend twice as much time online as they do watching television each week. The average person checks his or her smartphone 150 times per day.
In 2010, a Kaiser Family Foundation study showed that children ages 8 to 18 spent an average of 10 hours and 45 minutes a day with media. Half of those media hours were spent on the Internet. In January, a study carried out by Tablets for Schools found that 64 percent of those surveyed ages 11 to 17 took a gadget to bed with them. One 12-year-old said, “The Internet nearly always controls my actions. … I feel lost without the Internet.”
Internet addiction has become a global problem. In 2010 a South Korean couple starved their three-month old child to death as they went on six-to-twelve hour online binges caring for a virtual child in an online game instead of their own flesh and blood. South Korea and China have the highest Internet addiction, with around 30 percent of the population of each country addicted. China has built 250 boot camps to “de-program” its Internet addicts. In October, an American man began treatment for Internet addiction after spending 18 hours a day for two months connected to his Google Glass. Studies show that one in eight Americans suffer from Internet addiction.
Oftentimes, people become addicted to things like the Internet to fill a void in their life. But no matter how much they try to fill it, they are never satisfied because they don’t know what is meant to fill the emptiness. In a 1962 Plain Truth article, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote,
The only thing that will impart to [man] this sense of satisfaction, completeness, abundance is God’s Spirit …. Yet man’s carnal mind does not recognize that fact. Being incomplete, lacking … God’s Word … he has a gnawing soul-hunger that leaves him miserable, empty discontented. He seeks to quench his thirst and satisfy his soul-hunger in the interests and pursuits and pleasures of this world.
To understand more on what fills that void, watch “Get Addicted to This.”