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Internet – Boon or Bane

hy sites are just one part of the problem.

"Not surprisingly, online pornography and, to some degree, online gambling, have received the most attention - but users are as likely to use other sites, including chat rooms, shopping venues and special-interest Web sites," he said. "Our survey did not track what specific Internet venues were the most frequented by respondents, but other studies, and our clinical experience, indicate that pornography is just one area of excessive Internet use."

Although studies show that more than 160 million Americans are regular Internet users, little research has been conducted on problematic Internet use. A 1999 Center for Internet Studies survey of 18,000 Internet users, however, did find that 5.7 percent of the sample met suggested criteria for "compulsive" Internet use. And a 2002 study in the journal CyberPsychology & Behavior found that 60 percent of companies surveyed had disciplined, and more than 30 percent had terminated, employees for inappropriate Internet use.

"The issue is starting to be recognized as a legitimate object of clinical attention, as well as an economic problem, given that a great deal of non-essential Internet use takes place at work," said Aboujaoude. But he added that there is little consensus among clinicians on whether problematic Internet use is a distinct disorder or merely an expression of other psychopathologies, such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

In the Stanford study-which Aboujaoude said is the first large-scale, random-sample epidemiological one ever done-the researchers conducted a nationwide household survey and interviewed 2,513 adults. Because no generally accepted screening instrument exists for problematic Internet use, the researchers developed their questions by extrapolating from other compulsive and addictive conditions.

The researchers found that 68.9 percent were regular Internet users, which is consistent with previo
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