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Internet addiction in children and adolescents: etiology, signs of recognition and implications in mental health nursing practice.

Authors:

Abstract

Internet addiction in young age is an emerging topic gaining researchers interested worldwide. Despite the progress that has been made in prevention, diagnosis and treatment in this disorder the field is wide and unexplored when it comes in mental health nursing practice. The effects that internet addiction may have in individuals life’s are shown the social, professional as well as in academic level. Moreover the effects that long hours screen exposure may have in physical health, the excessive participation of children and adolescents in online gaming and social networking sites as well as the emergence of a new type of anti-social behaviors expressed by harassment, bullying, cyber crime and online suicides are a new research field in digital age. Considering the globalization and the complexity of internet addiction mental health nurses must establish an effective program for the management of the addiction as well as the daily problems that such condition raises. Within the clinical context of mental health, nurses can have an effective role not only in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of internet addiction but in the prevention of that phenomenon as well.
Downloaded from www.medrech.com
“Internet addiction in children and adolescents: etiology, signs of recognition and implications in mental
health nursing practice.”
Fradelos E. C. et al.
, Med. Res. Chron., 2016, 3 (4), 264-272
Medico Research Chronicles, 2016
264
Submitted on: August 2016
Accepted on: August 2016
For Correspondence
Email ID:
INTERNET ADDICTION IN CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS: ETIOLOGY, SIGNS OF
RECOGNITION AND IMPLICATIONS IN MENTAL HEALTH NURSING PRACTICE.
Evangelos C. Fradelos
1*
, Michael Kourakos
2
, Olga Velentza
3
, Tzannis Polykandriotis
4
,
Ioanna V. Papathanasiou
5
1. RMHN, MSc, PhD (c), Psychiatric Hospital of Attica “Daphne”, Athens, Greece.
2. RMHN, PhD, Director of Nursing, General Hospital Asklepieio, Athens, Greece.
3. RMHN, MSc, Aigenition University Hospital, Athens, Greece.
4. RMHN, MSc, Psychiatric Hospital of Attica “Daphne”, Athens, Greece.
5. RN, MSc, PhD, Assistant Professor of Community Psychiatry Nursing, Technological Educational
Institute of Thessaly, Larissa, Greece.
Review Article
ISSN No. 2394-3971
Abstract:
Internet addiction in young age is an emerging topic gaining researchers interested
worldwide. Despite the progress that has been made in prevention, diagnosis and treatment
in this disorder the field is wide and unexplored when it comes in mental health nursing
practice. The effects that internet addiction may have in individuals life’s are shown the
social, professional as well as in academic level. Moreover the effects that long hours
screen exposure may have in physical health, the excessive participation of children and
adolescents in online gaming and social networking sites as well as the emergence of a new
type of anti-social behaviors expressed by harassment, bullying, cyber crime and online
suicides are a new research field in digital age. Considering the globalization and the
complexity of internet addiction mental health nurses must establish an effective program
for the management of the addiction as well as the daily problems that such condition
raises. Within the clinical context of mental health, nurses can have an effective role not
only in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of internet addiction but in the prevention
of that phenomenon as well.
Keywords: Internet addiction, problematic internet use, mental health nursing
practice, internet addiction treatment, children and adolescences health
Introduction
Internet addiction in young age is an
emerging topic gaining researchers
interested worldwide. Despite the
progress that has been made in
prevention, diagnosis and treatment in
this disorder the field is wide and
unexplored when it comes in mental
health nursing practice. Internet is
considered to be the biggest revolution of
the last decades. It is a tool for the
science, the information and the
entertainment. Due to the continuous
development of new technologies,
Internet users are now able to
communicate each other worldwide,
making online purchases. Moreover,
internet can be an effective education
tool, can facilitate working from distance
and perform transactions with various
Downloaded from www.medrech.com
“Internet addiction in children and adolescents: etiology, signs of recognition and implications in mental
health nursing practice.”
Fradelos E. C. et al.
, Med. Res. Chron., 2016, 3 (4), 264-272
Medico Research Chronicles, 2016
services. Nevertheless, the wide spread,
especially in specific population groups,
such as young people, has resulted in the
creation of a form of disorder, Internet
addiction
(1, 2)
.
Although the topic nowadays is widely
discussed the possibility of addiction or
potential dependence from various
recreational internet activities, is
discussed since 1987
(1, 3)
. However it took
a decade and more specific after 1996 for
several experts’ psychiatrists and
psychologists considered that the
excessive computer use can cause
addiction and recognized this overuse as a
disorder and dependence with similar
criteria to those of other dependencies
(3)
.
Today, most researchers in the field of
addictions indicate that the internet
dependence disorder is a
psychophysiological disorder involving
tolerance and isolation symptoms as well
as emotional and social disturbances.
Internet addiction is an emerging problem
in society that is increasing as much as is
increasing the computer use
(4)
.
It is a fact that internet is gaining ground
internationally within the field of
information, entertainment,
communication and technology. Over the
last decade has started an international
study about the pathological internet use
by humans
(1, 4)
.
Along with internet addiction nowadays,
a series of other behaviors link to
pathological internet use are under
investigation to. The effects that long
hours screen exposure may have in
physical health, the excessive
participation of children and adolescents
in online gaming and social networking
sites as well as the emergence of a new
type of anti-social behaviors expressed by
harassment, bullying, cyber crime and
online suicides are a new research field in
digital age
(5,6)
.
Defining Internet Addiction
Internet addiction is a complex and an
emerging issue, thus is difficult to find a
single and wide accepted definition. Over
the years various names have been
attributed in the attempt to define this
excessive internet use and this
pathological phenomenon.
Historically, internet addiction disorder
(IAD) was first reported by Ivan
Goldberg, psychiatrist in New York, in
1996. Goldberg used criteria of DSM-IV
from addiction to substances, replacing
the term substance to that of the Internet
and so internet addiction disorder was
born gaining the interested of several
researchers at the time. Despite the fact
that term addiction is traditionally used to
describe the biological addiction from
one or more substances, it can serve to
describe the "excessive” internet use as
well
(7, 8)
. Following Goldberg definition
and description of this pathological
phenomenon a long list of attributed
terms was followed; among them some
can find '' pathological Internet use '', ''
problematic Internet use ‘‘,"impulsive
internet use", “cyberspace addiction"
According to Mitchell (2000), internet
addiction is the impulsive overuse of the
Internet, deprivation which is followed by
irritable or dysthymic behavior
(9)
. On the
other hand Shapira et al (2003) described
this addiction as the dependence on the
internet is the inability to control the use
of the web, leading to pressure feelings,
anxiety and dysfunctional behaviors in
daily activities
(10)
.
Young defined four basic types of
Internet addiction:
1. Cyber sexual Addiction: People
suffering from this type of addiction
usually deal with the viewing,
downloading and trading of
pornographic material through the
Internet or participate in adult chat
room with role fantasy games.
Addicted of this category are usually
people with low self-esteem, because
they believe they are not sufficiently
good-looking or have some sexual
dysfunction. Finally, studies have
shown that men like to watch erotic
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“Internet addiction in children and adolescents: etiology, signs of recognition and implications in mental
health nursing practice.”
Fradelos E. C. et al.
, Med. Res. Chron., 2016, 3 (4), 264-272
Medico Research Chronicles, 2016
266
Video, while women like to enter in
erotic content chat.
2. Cyber-Affair / Relational Addiction:
This category includes those suffering
from addiction in chat rooms, sending
instant messages and participate in
online social network sites. Online
friends quickly become more
important to the individual, to the
detriment of relations in its real life
with family and friends. In many
cases this will lead to family discord
and family instability.
3. Net Compulsions: The addiction to
online gaming, online games of
chance and on eBay has started very
quickly to become a new mental
problem in the post-era of internet.
Because of direct access to virtual
casinos, interactive games and eBay
addicts lose huge amounts of money,
their jobs and disrupt their
interpersonal relationships.
4. Information Overload: The wealth of
data available on the web has created
a new type of compulsive behavior
associated with excessive "surfing" on
the Internet and database searches.
People spend a lot of time in search,
data collection and organization of
information gathered from the
Internet
(11)
.
Internet Addiction in Numbers
The effects that internet addiction may
have in individuals life’s are shown the
social, professional as well as in
academic level. Although in an
international level, studies have shown
that the internet addiction varies between
5-10% among Internet users in China and
in other Asian countries the rates are
higher. China is the country that has the
lead in the recognition of internet
addiction as well as in incidence of this
addiction with over 13.7% of Chinese
adolescents (approximately 10 million).
Other Asian Countries such as N. Korea
and Taiwan are facing this problem at the
same extend to
(12)
.
In Greece the rates are almost as high as
they are in China, Taiwan and N. Korea,
with 70.8% of adolescents had access to
the internet. The most common form of
internet use is in online games, which
represent the 50.9% of Internet users, as
well as information services, which
account for 46.8%. The computer
addiction refers to boys with the p/c
existence at home and everyday use.
Their habits are smoking, alcohol and
many hours on television a day
(13-15)
.
Most of the addicted teens play computer
"games" at home or internet café. They
may quit school, be isolated from their
family and friends, be aggressive with
their parents, steal money from the family
in order to "play", live in a room, and not
eat or the opposite, not exercise and not
sleep for days and nights. They may not
even change clothes, neglect their
hygiene and cleanliness as well. These
may occur in milder form during early
adolescence
(16)
. According to the dada
from Adolescent Health Unit of Athens
Children's Hospital (2007), 8% of the
adolescents are using the internet more
than 20 hours a week and about three in
ten (26%) teenagers surf on a daily basis.
The most frequent reason for internet use
is online gaming. While 1% are showing
signs of addiction. The first reason can
lead to addictive behavior is the social
networks and follow the online games.
According to A.H.U, the first reason was
the online games. Moreover, children
with addiction behavior engage in games
of chance and use sexual material
significantly more often than other
people. In addition, adolescents with
addiction behavior exhibit aggressive
tendencies and delinquent behavior, while
adolescents with marginal use (a pre-
dependence stage, however problematic
use) exhibit depressive tendencies and
anxiety. In general, teenagers with
problematic use seem to acquire a
misguided "comfort" to the Internet by
removing boundaries and presenting
high-risk behaviors
(17)
.
Downloaded from www.medrech.com
“Internet addiction in children and adolescents: etiology, signs of recognition and implications in mental
health nursing practice.”
Fradelos E. C. et al.
, Med. Res. Chron., 2016, 3 (4), 264-272
Medico Research Chronicles, 2016
267
Etiology of Internet Addiction
People addicted to the Internet for
different reasons. Addiction as behavior
disorder may have its origin in
psychodynamic theories, personality
theories, sociopolitical and biomedical
explanations. In order to determine the
dependence caused from the web was
suggested a search under the scope of a
psychosocial model adding the parameter
of the addictive nature of the web itself
(4,
11)
. According to Shapira et al and
Marahan – Martin internet addiction is
often associated with a number of other
disorder such as social phobia and the
addiction to substances as well
(18-21)
. One
of the lead psychological factors for the
cause of internet addiction is the ability
that the webs has reducing negative
emotions and decompress a person from
the stressful reality
(11, 20, and 21)
.
According to Ridings and Gefen (2004),
due to the specific characteristics, such as
communication and interaction as well as
the fact that it can eliminate any distance,
internet can be very appealing for the
average user. Networking and social
media are by far the main reasons for the
participation in various websites. Help
seeking, friendship, establishment and the
maintain relationships can be some
reason for internet engagement as well
(22)
. For many individuals who are
involving to virtual environments, their
experiences consider to be real, leading
their consciousness of being to be
absorbed in to this digital world. Often
their online activities are giving to them
such pleasure that make them unable to
engage in any real activity
(16, 17, 23, and 24)
.
Over the years of research on internet
addiction some patterns and personality
traits had been link to this disorder. It is
very often that shy person who in real life
situation find it difficult to make friends,
in virtual world the can find a way to seek
love, hate, they can satisfy their will to
feel without the need of face to face
interaction. Additionally they enjoy all
the benefits of internet socialization plus
the privilege of anonymity that the
internet offers
(16, 17, and 23)
.
Psychodynamic and personality
approaches associated internet addiction
with individual characteristics and
experiences. Depending on childhood and
various events affecting individuals, a
predisposition is created to develop an
addictive behavior. On the other hand,
socio-cultural approaches link the
addiction depending on race, sex, age,
economic status, religion and country.
However there is not enough variety of
current Internet users to confirm that this
statement is indeed true
(25)
.
To Greece according to data obtained by
Adolescent Health Unit (A.H.U.) the
phenomenon is more common in boys, in
dysfunctional families and children with
depressive or distraction- hyperactivity.
Moreover, internet addiction was also
link to some environmental factors such
as lack of communication and setting of
limits from the family
(16, 17)
.
Signs of Recognition
In general the addicted user is not easy to
understand the problem; situation
becomes more difficult when the
addiction affects children. A person or
child, who is addicted to the Internet,
usually exhibit some from the following
symptoms. Idealization of internet, where
the addicted individual, is considering
computer or internet as the most
important "thing" in his daily life. Mood
modification, addicted persons are
exhibiting an increased production of
dopamine, a neurotransmitter of the brain,
which is associated with pleasure.
Tolerance, where the person gradually
seeks more and more hours of computer
to feel pleasure. Conflict, when a child or
a person can feel the problem that the
extensive internet use is creating but he
cannot do something to limit the use of
the computer
(10, 11, 25, 26)
.
Warning signs: Children are constantly
engaged in the Internet or activities
associated with it, often neglecting his
obligations at home or school. They are
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“Internet addiction in children and adolescents: etiology, signs of recognition and implications in mental
health nursing practice.”
Fradelos E. C. et al.
, Med. Res. Chron., 2016, 3 (4), 264-272
Medico Research Chronicles, 2016
268
becoming more and more absorbed in the
computer and often loosing sense of time
that consumes on it. They exhibit a
preference to internet, instead of meeting
friends, with a result of social
withdrawing. His school performance
falls. Children often expressing their
concern on internet activities even at the
time that they are eating and they are
reading. Moreover they can be very
nervous, angry or aggressive way when
someone disrupts the game or the
discussion he had online and they are
experiencing anxiety, unease, outburst of
anger or violence or depressive behavior
when he is not playing online. .They
often stays up late just to connect to the
Internet. Finally, addicted children often
say "well, I will just play for one minute."
(10, 11, 25, 26)
.
In general for one to be diagnosed with
internet addiction must fulfill at least
five from criteria that are listed
below, as there are recommended by
Beard (2005).
1. Continuous occupation with the
Internet, thoughts about previous
online activity or anticipate next
online session.
2. An increasing need for internet use
with an equivalent increase of the
time required in order to bring
saturation and satisfaction.
3. All efforts to control stop or reduce
internet use turn to be insufficient.
4. The attempts to reduces or stop internet
use are accompanied with
restlessness, moody and depressed
emotions.
5. To spent more time online than initially
intended.
6. Putting at risk to loss significant
relationship, job, educational or career
opportunity because of the Internet.
7. Often lies about the involvement and
occupation on the web.
8. Finds internet as a way out from
feelings of helplessness, guilt,
anxiety, depression
(27, 28)
.
Implications in Mental Health Nursing
Practice
Considering the globalization and the
complexity of internet addiction mental
health nurses must establish effective
programs for the management of the
addiction as well as the daily problems
that such condition raises
(29, 30)
. Similar,
as to the other dependencies nurses must
act in this addiction in the same way,
assuming various roles and within a
context such as this has been configured
and set both from WHO and from
International Council of Nurses.
According to them, nurses must work in
this field taking the crucial roles of Care
Provision, Educator, Therapist, Counsel,
Health promotion, researcher, Supervisor,
specialty Consultant
(31)
. Within the
clinical context of mental health, nurses
can have an effective role not only in the
assessment, diagnosis and treatment of
internet addiction but in the prevention of
that phenomenon as well.
Prevention Internet Addiction
In the context of prevention several
factors are those that could help dealing
with the problem by informing young
people. More specifically, the family
environment which should put the first
limits of computing, in terms of time and
type of use. Parents must set family rules
on computer and Internet use, rules which
apply to parents as well. During
childhood and adolescence period social
and sporting activities are very important.
Moreover, children and adolescences
must be included to family activities that
do not involve the use of computer and
internet. The installation and use access
control programs to certain websites and
time spent on the web and be very useful
to. Finally, computer should be placed in
a shared room by the family and not in
the children's room
(16, 17)
.
School can determent a special role in
prevention of internet addiction. Teachers
can and must inform students and parents
about the dangers that internet has. They
can propose preventive measures and
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“Internet addiction in children and adolescents: etiology, signs of recognition and implications in mental
health nursing practice.”
Fradelos E. C. et al.
, Med. Res. Chron., 2016, 3 (4), 264-272
Medico Research Chronicles, 2016
269
with the assistance of psychologists face
those cases requiring urgent assistance.
Moreover, should encourage students to
make school works via computer and
Internet so that the positive aspects of
their use can have.
Furthermore, public media campaigns can
be an effective mean so parents and
children about the phenomenon,
providing additional information about
units that working with such issues,
available treatment centers and
counseling telephone lines.
Health services must have the
responsibility to inform doctors, trainee
and students about excessive internet use.
Internet addiction should be included in
conferences and workshops in order to
health professional such as nurses,
pediatricians, and child psychiatrists,
psychologists, who will come across with
such problems be sensitized
(16, 17, and 30)
.
Assessment of Internet Addiction
Over the years several instruments have
been developed to assess the existence or
not and severity of internet addiction.
One from the first instruments is Young’s
Diagnostic Questionnaire, based on the
eight criteria of DSM-IV of gambling.
Another one is Brenner’s IRABI
(Internet-Related Addictive Behavior
Inventory) a 32 item questionnaire that
assess the internet overuse. Schumacher
developed the 13 item PIU (Pathological
Internet Use Scale). Finally the most
reliable Young’s Internet Addiction Test,
a 20 item liker scale. According to the
scoring individuals can be classified into
one of three categories, not addicted,
moderate internet use and third addicted
(1)
.
Treatment Internet Addiction
Treatment of diagnosed cases in internet
addiction can be applied with
pharmacological and most likely non
pharmacological interventions.
Due to the fact that along with internet
addiction another psychiatric disorder can
exist there have been some evidence for
the use of various pharmacological agents
successfully used in the treatment of this
addiction. According to Przepiorka et al
2014, Antidepressant drugs,
Antipsychotic drugs, Opioid receptor
antagonists, Psychostimulants, and
Glutamate antagonists have been
successfully administrated and treat
internet addiction disorder
(33)
. Moreover,
according to the meta-analysis study of
Winkler et al in 2013, both psychological
and pharmacological interventions proved
beneficial in the Internet addicts as
regards time spent online, depression and
anxiety
(34)
. In addition, in rare and severe
cases where suicidal ideation, or major
depressive disorder and symptoms of
cachexia due to many days, continuous
involvement with the Internet, such as
online games can coexist. In this case
there is the possibility of hospitalization
in child psychiatry clinic
(35)
.
The majority of studies utilized non-
pharmacologic interventions for Internet
addiction, such as some
psychotherapeutic approaches, in order to
investigate the causes leading children
and adolescents to this attitude, aiming to
regain the confidence in him and in life.
During the therapy the use is not
interrupted but the teenager learns to set
limits and start again engaging in other
activities. These included cognitive
behavior therapy (CBT), motivational
interviewing (MI), reality training, or a
combination of psychological and/or
counseling therapies within a self-devised
treatment program
(36)
.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has
been shown to be an effective treatment
for many disorders such as compulsive
disorders, including pathological
gambling to, and has also been effective
in treating substance abuse, emotional
disorders, and eating disorders as well.
CBT has been indicated as
psychotherapeutic intervention of choice
when it comes to internet addiction with
several studies supporting this fact.
Moreover, comparison of CBT and other
psychological treatments showed that
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“Internet addiction in children and adolescents: etiology, signs of recognition and implications in mental
health nursing practice.”
Fradelos E. C. et al.
, Med. Res. Chron., 2016, 3 (4), 264-272
Medico Research Chronicles, 2016
270
CBT outperformed other psychological
treatments at reducing time spent online
and depression
(37, 38)
. Within the sessions
of CBT for internet addiction, patients are
taught to monitor their thoughts and
identify those that trigger addictive
feelings and actions. Moreover they are
learning ways to cope with the addiction
along with ways to prevent relapse. CBT
usually requires 12 weekly sessions, a 12-
step program, and behavior modification.
This program have been successfully
applied by nurses psychotherapists who
had an expert training
(29, 39)
.
Other Psychological Interventions:
Despite the fact that, CBT is by far the
most researched psychotherapeutic
intervention in internet addiction there are
some studies discussed non-CBT
treatments can be effective to. Such as,
motivational Interviewing (MI),
acceptance and commitment therapy
(ACT) and reality therapy (RT),
multimodal treatments without CBT
components, and promotion of exercise
routines
(40)
.
Conclusions
Dr. Young is one of the first psychiatrists
with many studies about Internet
addiction presenting in the US the first
research on Internet addiction in 1996
during the annual meeting of the
American Psychological Association,
held in Toronto. Since then, studies have
documented Internet addiction in a
growing number of countries such as
Italy, Pakistan, Iran, Germany and the
Czech Republic. Today is observed that
the scientific community faces seriously
the internet addiction as a disease and a
threat and new treatment centers are
created continuously. Internet addiction
has become a serious public health
concern but it is difficult to assess how
widespread the problem is. The
uncontrolled use of the Internet by
adolescents hides enough dangers, that’s
why according to experts, education for
adolescents and parents is necessary.
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... States of mind change, addicted people are showing an expanded creation of dopamine, a synapse of the cerebrum, or, in other words, joy. Resistance, where the individual bit by bit looks for an ever increasing number of long periods of computer to feel joy (Fradelos, Kourakos, Velentza, Polykandriotis, & Papathanasiou, 2016). There are several signs of internet addiction. ...
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