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August 6, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Student Counselling

Internet Addiction: What’s the big deal?

We all know friends or family members who seem to spend huge amounts of time on the internet—gaming, social networking, YouTubing, trading or simply surfing. Here at the Victoria our own ITS department estimate that 80 per cent of the bandwidth used by students is in non-direct academic-related use—doing mostly all the above. It’s also true that mastery of the computer and of the online world are integral elements of successful university life and having the complete student experience. So how is it that something that has always promised so much can also, for many people, create so many problems?

You know it’s an issue when increasing numbers of clinicians and researchers around the world identify increasing numbers of people (including university students) with debilitating internet dependence. The following is noted in such cases:

  • Tolerance
  • Withdrawal
  • Using more than was intended
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut down
  • Large amounts of time obtaining, using or withdrawing from it
  • Reduced social, occupational, academic and recreational activities
  • Use continues despite negative effects

The list shows some predictable things that us human beings exhibit when we are becoming addicted to either a substance or a behaviour, whether it be misusing alcohol or other drugs, or gambling, exercise or internet overuse. It is our innate human desire for immediate gratification; to seek pleasure and to avoid pain. Nothing wrong with that, except the reality of life is that we need to find ways to balance our lives and be both reasonably happy and productive. For students this obviously involves being able to focus on studies, sleep more than occasionally and limit unhelpful behaviours and habits. Internet addiction and depression have a close relationship.

At the Counselling Service we get a steady and increasing number of students coming to talk to us about their internet use. This typically involves large and increasing amounts of time spent online and the resultant impact on sleep, ability to study, attend classes or complete assignments, increased isolation, feelings of irritability, shame, failure and unhappiness and an inability to change things. Porn addiction is a biggy amongst the boys with the obvious social taboos about admitting to this preventing more students seeking help. It takes courage (and sometimes desperation) to confront this kind of issue and the good news is that we can help.

So what to do if you think this might be you? Take the Internet Addiction Test (http://goo.gl/6t6R5) and see if this indicates a problem. Come and talk to a counsellor and make a plan to deal with this. Helpful action steps can include telling others, removing your at home internet access and building up the rest of your life.

Gerard Hoffman

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