I get all sorts of notices in my inbox about “addiction”—shopping addiction, fossil fuel addiction, even addiction to stiletto heels. Many of them are not appropriate to this blog (although I have my own theories, distinct from Michael Pollan’s, about how fossil fuel addiction relates to food addiction and obesity).
But today I got this notice about Internet addiction that, considering school’s starting back up soon, I thought was timely and important.
It came from School Library Journal, which is like the New York Times Book Review for American high school librarians. And since libraries have dispensed with card catalogs back in, oh, 1990?—school libraries have installed computers. On which kids can surf the Internet.
A new study in the latest Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine followed more than 1,600 students between 13 and 18. The researchers found that even those who seemed “free of mental health problems but use the Internet pathologically could develop depression as a consequence,” according to the study.
In fact the students who used the Internet compulsively were at about 2.5 times the risk for depression over those who did not show those behaviors.
The authors said that kids at greatest risk were those who were compulsively participating in online gaming, especially games that involve multiple players, followed by those who compulsively participate in social networking.
The researchers used the Internet Addiction Test to assess kids’ level of compulsive behaviors.
My son and I have had conversations about Internet addiction. Since we’ve had talks about his risk of addiction in general, he’s sensitive to the possibility of the Internet’s hold over him—he’s a computer-literate kid, and a curious person who hunts down the information he wants, be it on Wikipedia, YouTube or any other site. And he loves games.
He’s only 12, but he has differentiated between “the computer” and “the Internet.” He says he doesn’t think “the computer” bears any risk of compulsive behavior—it’s “the Internet” that lures him in, because it feels endless. It feels like it could take him anywhere. It takes him out of himself.
So, he says, he knows he needs to log off after a certain amount of time.