MySpace ups time students spend online
Itâ€™s 7 p.m. on a Friday night and time to party. You log into MySpace to see what everyone is up to. Chad slept with Larissa? Missy kicked you off her friends list? The drama unfolds and the moments turn to hours.
Internet addiction is a growing societal concern, as many people are seen wasting their lives away in the glow of a computer screen.
â€œI believe there is an Internet addiction,â€? mass communication and journalism professor Dr. Tamyra Pierce said. â€œIâ€™ve seen some of it in the responses I get while doing my research. Some of the teens I have questioned say they get so wrapped up in using MySpace that they canâ€™t get off of it. Thatâ€™s a pretty good sign that there is some level of addiction going on there.â€?
According to Pierceâ€™s study, 50 percent of teens say they spend at least one to four hours online daily. In a second study, 52 percent of teens say they stay on MySpace longer than they intended to when they originally signed online.
â€œArticles Iâ€™ve read talk about remaining online longer than you originally intended being a sign of addiction to the Internet,â€? Pierce said. â€œApparently, people get so upset that they think about it all the time and it interferes with their relationships, grades and other parts of life. This also coincides with our current research about MySpace use and how that is related to lower grades amongst high school students.â€?
Compared to the fact that instant messengers only keep 19 percent of teens online longer than they intend and only 9 percent stay online due to e-mail, this means more research needs to be done in specific areas of online usage to determine where the addiction really comes from, Pierce said.
â€œMost of the research that has been done on this is really bad,â€? psychology professor Amanda Mortimer said. â€œThe majority of it points toward the addiction not being caused by the Internet itself, but by the material they are accessing. People are using the Internet to access pornography or to gamble, which means the Internet is just an access zone for addictive behaviors. Thatâ€™s the prominent theory, but it is lacking control groups and is very limited in its research.â€?
Mechanical engineering student Karla Velazquez said that the problem probably lies with loneliness, as most Internet addicts may use it to connect with a wider world of people than they know in their immediate social circle.
â€œWhen you say â€˜addiction,â€™ there is this connotation of physiological dependence,â€? health sciences professor Gerald Davoli said. â€œThere is a difference between actually depending on something or having a habitual need.â€?
Habituation is defined as a belief that an individual cannot function without a given element in his or her life. For someone who is addicted to this element, removing it will cause heavy physical withdrawal symptoms. A habitual person will grieve and become depressed, but according to Davoli, it wonâ€™t kill him.
â€œThe behavior of an Internet addict may look compulsive like a drug addiction, but it isnâ€™t the same thing,â€? Mortimer said. â€œIf you want to change problematic behavior, then you would need to change the rewards structure for what they are getting in return for the behavior. However, I would suspect that if a person has these kind of problematic behaviors, then they might be related to an underlying depression. This would have to be analyzed on a case by case basis.â€?
The Chinese government has implemented rehab centers to treat children who have an online addiction. An article written by The Washington Post said the facilities use a â€œtough loveâ€? approach to treating the patients, which includes â€œcounseling, military discipline, drugs, hypnosis and mild electric shocksâ€? to break the habit.
â€œI believe [Internet addiction] has the potential to become a grave social problem,â€? Davoli said. â€œI teach health-related courses and I believe that anything that comes at the expense of a well-rounded life is a concern, whether it be online addiction or becoming a workaholic. Anything that prevents people from having a social circle and networking with other people can have a detrimental effect.â€?