The study appears in the October issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
As yet, no agreed-upon definition of Internet addiction exists among mental health professionals, nor is the disorder included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, although it is being considered for the latest edition.
Most often, Internet addiction is considered to be excessive use of the Internet that negatively impacts grades, family relationships or emotional state. Symptoms include a preoccupation with the Internet, greater use of the Internet than anticipated or desired, an inability to stop, and using the Internet so much that it crowds out other activities.
In the study, being male, spending more than 20 hours a week on the Internet and playing online games were risk factors for Internet obsession.
Experts say they are seeing more of it.
"We see children and teens spending a tremendous amount of time on the Internet. Activities can range from chatting and using Facebook to participating in online gaming, shopping, pornography or 'Second Life,'" said Dr. Harold Koplewicz, director of the Child Study Center at New York University Langone Medical Center. "Like anything else, when it's done too much and it starts causing dysfunction in other parts of our lives, it qualifies as an addiction, obsession or compulsion."
Parents of teenagers should monitor the time their children spend on the Internet and the sites they visit. This is especially important for parents of children with ADHD, social phobia or another mental health condition, Koplewicz said.
Children with ADHD have difficulty focusing, which leads to problems in school. Their impulsivity makes them more likely to be in car accidents. They are also more likely to use alcohol or marijuana daily. Because children with ADHD crave novelty, it makes sense that the Internet would appea
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