There seems to be a correlation between psychological disorder and teen Internet addiction. A study done in Taiwan found that Internet use becomes an addiction when it begins to adversely affect school and personal life. Psychiatric disorders such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and depression may predispose teens to Internet addiction.
Research indicates that 1.4% to 17.9% of adolescents around the world are addicted to the Internet. However, addictions to Internet use are not as prevalent in the United States as they are in other countries. Typical signs that an adolescent has an Internet addiction include difficulty completing daily tasks, academic performance declining, losing track of time on the Internet, isolation from friends and family, and experiencing euphoria with Internet use.
Currently, teen Internet addiction is not an official psychiatric diagnosis, with no listing in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is the standardized text and clinical reference used by psychologists and therapists across North America to diagnose their clients. However, there is a growing movement to have both the Internet and gaming addiction added to the next edition of the DSM.
The Taiwan study lasted two years and included 2,293 seventh graders who were surveyed with the Chen Internet Addiction Scale. The aim of the research was to evaluate the predictive values of certain psychological illnesses for the presence of teen Internet addiction. ADHD was the most significant predictor of Internet addiction in teens. The author of the study noted that because “Internet behavior is characterized by rapid response, immediate reward, and multiple windows with different activities, which may reduce feelings of boredom or delayed aversion in adolescents with ADHD.”
In fact, an addiction is often developing when Internet use is done in secrecy. It often includes compulsive behavior where there is a loss of control and an adolescent spends large amounts of time engaging in Internet-related activity to the point where he or she is neglecting social, academic, or familial responsibilities.
Internet use can also serve as a coping mechanism for teens who are feeling depressed or anxious, or who are experiencing sexual excitement. As the above mentioned study indicates, teens are more likely to become addicted to Internet use if they are depressed, have social phobias, or have been diagnosed with ADHD. More specifically, evidence suggests that boys are at higher risk for an addiction than girls, especially boys who spend more than 20 hours per week online. Research also indicates that 1.4% to 17.9% of adolescents around the world are addicted to the Internet. However, addictions to Internet use are not as prevalent in the United States as they are in other countries.
According to the author of the Taiwan study, ADHD, hostility, depression, and social phobia “should be detected early on and intervention carried out to prevent Internet addiction in adolescents.” Furthermore, in order to further prevent teen Internet addiction in the home, parents and caregivers can make Internet use a part of normal family functioning. For instance, position a computer in the family room or in another community area of the house so that Internet use is not what a teen does in secret but is a part of family time. Seeking professional assistance, such as therapy or support groups, can also facilitate a change in behavior and help break the cycle of addiction.
Psychiatric symptoms may predict Internet addiction in teens. (2009). Brown University Child & Adolescent Behavior Letter, 25(12), 3-4.