“Internet Addiction” is a growing problem. As more individuals gain internet access every year, the number of people becoming obsessed with and then addicted to a digital lifestyle is increasing as well. Internet addiction shares a lot of similarities to other addictions, and like other addictions, can also be treated. This guide will help you understand what internet addictions can look like, and how they can be treated.
- Defining Internet Addiction
- What are technology and internet addictions?
- Are technology addictions really a problem?
- How do I know if I have a problem? Assessing technology addictions and identifying symptoms
- Internet, smartphone, and social media addiction: Seeking help and treatments
- For parents: Managing technology use through parental control software and apps
Defining Internet Addiction
In 2012, popular satire news website The Onion posted a fake video news report: “Brain-Dead Teen, Only Capable Of Rolling Eyes And Texting, To Be Euthanized.”
The video amusingly dramatizes the slow degradation of “Caitlin,” a once energetic and active young girl whose brain has succumbed to lifelessness amidst texting and social media usage (and, one would assume, the general malaise of being a teenage girl). Her doting yet troubled parents have decided to take the most loving step they can consider: euthanasia. As the fake doctor in the clip states:
“Her eyes may flutter a bit, or she may murmur: ‘Are you for real killing me right now?’, but then the struggle will finally be over.”
The Onion is well known for its biting humor, but also, in a similar fashion to television’s Saturday Night Live, for the observational intelligence of its satire. In this case, the site hits fairly close to home for many who have dealt with technology and internet addiction, or who have family members currently struggling with this growing problem. Although real internet addiction rarely, if ever, results in such a dramatic effect as The Onion’s notably hyperbolic example, its consequences and impact on relationships and quality of life are often deeply felt.
That said, the debate over whether internet addiction is a legitimate disorder has yet to be decided, at least officially in Western countries. The American Psychological Association, for example, does not list internet, technology, or social media disorders in its most recently updated Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), although it does give internet gaming addiction a nod. However, a growing number of Asian countries officially consider these addictions legitimate, including China, which officially classified internet addiction in 2008.
Despite disagreements about the efficacy of internet addiction claims and research, many medical professionals, including a number of psychologists, sociologists, and psychiatrists, currently do consider internet addiction–also referred to as problematic internet use (PIU), or internet addiction disorder (IAD)–as legitimate a disorder as any other addiction and worthy of just as much concern and attention.
While that debate still rages on, the number of individuals whose lives are tangibly affected by internet and technology overuse continues to swell. One 2014 study from the University of Hong Kong suggested that as many as 420 million people worldwide suffer from internet and technology addictions of some form. While others questioned the reach of that study, numerous examples continue to emerge regarding this issue, especially among younger generations.
Observations and studies point to the fact that younger generations are being brought up using the internet, mobile devices, and social media during their most formative years where habits are ingrained in the brain’s chemistry. However, counter to perceived logic, it may be that previous generations, in particular, Generation X, may be more likely to develop technology addictions than younger ones.
As with most addictions, there’s no one type of addict. The addiction will look different from person to person, and vary in just how deeply it impacts someone’s life. However, there are ways to identify whether technology and internet addictions actually exist in someone’s life, with observable negative consequences. Furthermore, there now exists a large body of actionable ways to combat these addictive behaviors that may help those suffering recover from the harm addictions can cause.
What are technology and internet addictions?
Internet and other technology addictions can cover several categories, and fit into several definitions. Here, we’ll provide a broad definition of “technology addiction,” and parse this into smaller chunks that better define internet addiction, smartphone (or mobile phone) addiction, and social media addiction.
Technology addiction: high-level definition
“Technology addiction” can be broadly defined as an inability to control one’s technology use due to a dependence developed through emotional, psychological, social, environmental, and biological factors. This means that an individual may have difficulty with impulse control when it comes to technology usage, be it the internet, gaming, texting, smartphones, social media, or otherwise.
The above definition is purposefully broad to align “technology addiction” with the more general definition of addiction as provided by the American Psychological Association (APA). The APA defines addiction as: “a chronic disorder with biological, psychological, social and environmental factors influencing its development and maintenance.”
The APA goes on to explain that addiction has a significant genetic component, with roughly half of one’s risk for developing an addiction coming from genetic history. Development of that addiction then occurs based on the factors mentioned above each playing a role to varying degrees. All addictions are strongly developed through biological and psychological factors, however. The addictive behaviors begin to take hold due to the brain providing a chemical and emotional “reward” for the behavior, thus leading individuals to return to and more actively seek out that behavior. Simply put, this is a form of conditioning.
Socially, these addictions may develop following consistent peer or family pressures where such behavior is seen as socially acceptable or even required, or environmentally, where access to the addicting-causing medium may be easy, thus leading to a quick reward and limiting an individual’s ability to manage impulse control successfully.
It is easy to see, then, why the broader definition of addiction can be applied to the more specific “technology addiction,” and provides a good argument for why technology addictions exist and develop in the first place. Technology is often associated with and used variously for different types of entertainment which provide an emotional and chemical reward doled out by the brain. When this reaction is combined with the social acceptance of technology use of certain types, followed by increasingly easier-to-access technologies and the increasing sophistication of mobile devices, it’s hard to overstate why technology addictions can arise so easily.
Internet addiction defined
Where internet addiction differs from the larger concept of technology addiction is in the very specific requirement for internet access. Internet addiction can fall directly under the umbrella of technology addiction, while itself being the tree for other types of technology addictions that exist solely because of internet access.
Internet addiction has several different names, including “compulsive internet use” (CIU), “internet overuse,” “problematic internet use” (PIU), and “internet addiction disorder” (IAD). Of these, IAD and PIU are the more common terms. However, as stated earlier, the APA and other professional medical associations of note do not officially classify internet addiction as a disorder. As a result, no single term exists to unify the concept.
Internet addiction is highlighted by an individual’s uncontrollable compulsion to utilize the internet. For such individuals, internet use of various sorts triggers the reward center of the brain, flushing the body with chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, or even adrenaline, depending on the activity.
An article in Financial Times notes that researchers have outlined five specific types of internet addiction: computer games, gambling and shopping, pornography, web surfing, and online relationships. While helpful, it is increasingly difficult to quantify the subject in such a way, as the number of activities one can obsessively turn to that require internet connectivity only increase over time. Valiant Recovery, an addiction recovery organization, also lists out five types that are similar to, but broader than, the categories mentioned above, lending weight to the idea that internet addiction is still a somewhat poorly defined area of study.
All other types of addiction we’ll be discussing are subsets of internet addiction, as they would not exist without an internet connection.
Smartphone addiction defined
Smartphone addiction is highlighted by an individual’s obsessive and compulsive need to use or hold a smartphone or other mobile device. While the hallmark of this addiction tends to be very visual and physical (e.g., it’s easy to see when an individual has difficulty putting away a device), it often goes unnoticed as smartphone use has become far more socially acceptable in an increasing number of contexts.
Like other forms of addiction, smartphone addiction exists due to pleasure centers of the brain rewarding smartphone use. In some cases, anxiety can arise in addicted individuals when the device is not present, and consequently, the very presence of the device may serve to add a level of comfort or feeling of security. Indeed, some researchers have even proposed a new disorder: “Smart-loss anxiety disorder,” to describe the psychological impact and coping mechanisms that exist after the of loss of one’s smartphone
It becomes easy for addicted individuals to justify smartphone addiction, particularly due to the many valuable uses of a smartphone. Whether directly communicating with others through text or voice, looking up information or directions, or even reading eBooks, the many ways a smartphone can be used make it increasingly necessary in a 21st-century environment, thereby making it easier to become addicted to its use and harder to disengage from its use.
More broadly in this area, smartphone addiction is akin to “information addiction,” or separately, closer to “technology addiction,” as those with a smartphone addiction are likely to use the device to provide themselves with constant sensory input through different types of media that may or may not require internet access.
Social media addiction defined
Social media addiction is perhaps the easier of these topics to define. With social media addiction, the same reward centers of the brain are aroused, but social media is the sole avenue for the addiction. The reason why social media can become an addiction resides in three key areas: social interactions and relationships; positive responses, and encouragement; and information acquisition. All of these areas could be seen as rewards in and of themselves, and all exist on social media platforms, making social media, in particular, a strong motivator for addiction.
Social media users can easily become addicted to gaining “likes” and reshares, as this results in positive emotions on the part of the user. Users will return to the behaviors and actions on social media that result in likes and shares, and addicts, in particular, will learn to curate their posts to increase the number of likes and shares they receive. This type of behavior is a noticeably strong sign of addiction.
The hit Lady Gaga song “Applause” is a good example of a pop song that, among many things, speaks to the drive toward emotional attention seeking that exists in a social-media-driven society. Given that a large social media network or following provides anyone with a wide audience, and many people are equally on social media with some regularity, making posts to gain likes and shares can result in an almost immediate emotional reward.
The ease with which one can get that reward, and the lengths individuals might go to get it, is why social media addiction is particularly concerning, especially for children and teenagers, and especially when it leads to risky behaviors.
Are technology addictions really a problem?
Whether or not technology addictions are problematic somewhat resides in the continuing argument over whether they’re real “addictions” over simply “bad habits,” and whether, even if they are addictions, they’re actually of the type one should be concerned about. In a 2011 opinion article published in The New York Times, Virginia Heffernan wrote of one self-described internet addict, “The Internet as Gabriela uses it simply is intellectual life, and play. She’s just the person I’d want for a student, in fact — or a friend, or a daughter.” In Heffernan’s perception, internet addiction is not necessarily bad or harmful. From her perspective, the negative labeled exists mostly because technology addictions are not as highbrow as other pursuits, such as opera, theater, or reading.
However, some chemical and behavioral addictions are universally accepted as harmful. Alcoholism, hard drug addictions (such as heroin or cocaine), and gambling addictions are always considered a clear and present danger for the addicts and their families. For more subtle behavioral addictions such as smartphone, internet, or social media addictions, the direct impact on others and the addict is often less pronounced but still follows very similar patterns as other addictions.
It’s clear from many case studies and examples that these addictions can have realistic and sometimes painful consequences. Just a quick search through the Huffington Post, for instance, results in dozens of articles on the subject, with many writers identifying a distinct improvement to their quality of life when trying to cut out the addiction-causing technology.
“Does Facebook Make You Depressed?” asks Dr. Perpetua Noa in a 2016 article. While going back and forth on the issue (a yes-no of sorts), she states, “if you find yourself planning agendas, holidays and meals to revolve around what you can post on social media, perhaps ask yourself if this really satisfies you. Because many have confided about how empty it feels.” Her statement points to something many recent studies, including one from the University of Pittsburgh, have been observing: Heavy social media and other increased technology use are heavily linked to higher rates of depression.
Cause and effect arguments aside, there are other problematic associations with technology addictions as well. That list includes sleep deprivation, noticeable degradation of brain functions and structure (gray matter atrophy, reduced cortical thickness, loss of processing efficiency, compromised white matter integrity), social isolation, and a decrease in productivity, among other issues. A 2016 article in The Washington Post also explored the significant consequences that these addictions are having on younger generations, including job loss.
Despite its unofficial status, most people and an increasing number of health professionals now acknowledge internet, social media and smartphone addictions as real and impactful. Furthermore, mounting evidence indicates that there are sometimes severe negative consequences to leaving these addictions unaddressed.
To place more details to the matter, those who suffer technology-related addictions:
- Are more likely to have interpersonal and anxiety issues
- Are more likely to have health issues and suffer depression
- Are more likely to have multiple addictions (e.g., internet gaming addicts are also more likely to have pornography addictions)
- Are more likely to have strained family relationships
- Are less likely to be self-directed and more likely to have issues with impulse control
- Are more likely to experience stressful life events
- Are more likely to self-harm
- Are more likely to struggle academically
- Are more likely to have low self-esteem
As potentially circumstantial effects and behavior patterns begin to emerge, it becomes harder to align oneself with the idea that there is only a correlative relationship between technology addictions and significant, impactful lifestyle and health consequences. Indeed, despite having no formal definition, it is likely that the APA will include more versions of technology addiction in the next revision of the DSM (DSM-VI), beyond just internet gaming addiction. Even with internet gaming addiction, the DSM-V only recommends further study. The DSM was last updated in 2013 and is currently taking feedback from the medical community on what to include in the next (currently planned, but undated) update.
How do I know if I have a problem? Assessing technology addictions and identifying symptoms
There are a large number of tests and surveys that are designed to assess technology addiction. Most are highly unscientific, however. For this reason, we’ve turned to a questionnaire developed by researchers from Iowa State University. Their 2015 study, which focused specifically on what they called “nomophobia,” or a fear of being without a smartphone, is something we believe can be more broadly applied to social media and internet addictions as well, given the interconnectedness of the issues.
This test was adapted from a post on The Huffington Post. The questions and scoring are given below. Please take the time to answer the questions honestly, and then use the scoring metric at the bottom to determine what you number represents.
If you’re completing this test because you are concerned that someone you love may be addicted, please try not to be overly critical when writing down your ratings.
*Many studies that research this issue use the Internet Addiction Test developed by Dr. Kimberly Young, a foremost expert in internet addiction. We used the test below as it was developed much more recently and includes more questions. However, you may find the questions to Dr. Young’s test by clicking here.
Do you have a technology addiction?
Rate each item on a scale of 1 (“completely disagree”) to 7 (“strongly agree”) and tally up your total score to find out. Be honest!
- I would feel uncomfortable without constant access to information through my smartphone.
- I would be annoyed if I could not look information up on my smartphone when I wanted to do so.
- Being unable to get the news (e.g., happenings, weather, etc.) on my smartphone would make me nervous.
- I would be annoyed if I could not use my smartphone and/or its capabilities when I wanted to do so.
- Running out of battery in my smartphone would scare me.
- If I were to run out of credits or hit my monthly data limit, I would panic.
- If I did not have a data signal or could not connect to Wi-Fi, then I would constantly check to see if I had a signal or could find a Wi-Fi network.
- If I could not use my smartphone, I would be afraid of getting stranded somewhere.
- If I could not check my smartphone for a while, I would feel a desire to check it.
If I did not have my smartphone with me …
- I would feel anxious because I could not instantly communicate with my family and/or friends.
- I would be worried because my family and/or friends could not reach me.
- I would feel nervous because I would not be able to receive text messages and calls.
- I would be anxious because I could not keep in touch with my family and/or friends.
- I would be nervous because I could not know if someone had tried to get a hold of me.
- I would feel anxious because my constant connection to my family and friends would be broken.
- I would be nervous because I would be disconnected from my online identity.
- I would be uncomfortable because I could not stay up-to-date with social media and online networks.
- I would feel awkward because I could not check my notifications for updates from my connections and online networks.
- I would feel anxious because I could not check my email messages.
- I would feel weird because I would not know what to do.
Analyze Your Results:
0-20: Not at all nomophobic. You have a very healthy relationship with your device and have no problem being separated from it.
21-60: Mild nomophobia. You get a little antsy when you forget your phone at home for a day or get stuck somewhere without WiFi, but the anxiety isn’t too overwhelming.
61-100: Moderate nomophobia. You’re pretty attached to your device. You often check for updates while you’re walking down the street or talking to a friend, and you often feel anxious when you’re disconnected. Consider a personal detox.
101-120: Severe nomophobia. You can barely go for 60 seconds without checking your phone. It’s the first thing you check in the morning and the last at night and dominates most of your activities in-between. You may need to seek professional assistance.
Additional technology addiction symptoms
A questionnaire may not capture the nuances that exist within addictions. Below, we’ve provided some additional details and supporting research on what addiction looks like for smartphone, social media, and internet addictions individually.
Internet addictions: signs and symptoms
The clearest sign you will have for internet addiction is a distinct and noticeable difficulty disconnecting from online. This is highlighted by an increasing irritability when not online, and consistently going onto the internet or internet browsing frequently.
However, it’s not just frequency that is a concern. A meta-analysis of clinical research involving internet addictions found some commonalities among the 46 studies that were included. According to the study, internet addictions shared a lot in common with mental disorders, such that “the clinical context, Internet addiction can be viewed as mental disorder requiring professional treatment if the individual presents with significant levels of impairment.”
The research goes on to state that “psychotherapists treating the condition indicate the symptoms experienced by the individuals presenting for treatment appear similar to traditional substance-related addictions, including salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, conflict, and relapse.”
In psychology, “salience” refers to anything (such as a behavior or trait) that is obvious in context. For internet addiction sufferers, this means that the addictive behavior is self-evident and obvious enough for others and the sufferer to notice.
The other symptoms are more easy to identify, such as mood modification, withdrawal, conflict, and relapse. Tolerance is a bit more difficult for most individuals to understand, but in general terms, relates to the addict’s need to have more of the addiction-causing behavior to reap the same reward, as is the case with chemical addictions. For internet addiction, which thrives on triggering reward chemicals in the brain, tolerance results in the need to spend more time online or engage in internet-related activities to receive the same result.
Smartphone addictions: signs and symptoms
You will find that smartphone addiction symptoms and the signs of an addiction are not dissimilar to internet addiction. Highlighting this addiction are all of the following:
- Mood modification
However, as smartphone addiction is a very visual type of addiction in the sense that others can see when it is a problem, one of the clearest signs is someone’s inability to put down, or part with, their smartphone.
The research on “nomophobia,” or “no-mobile-phone-phobia,” from Iowa State University is a good guide to what this looks like. Sufferers of smartphone addiction will exhibit the traits that are present for those with internet addiction, but may be separately classified as “nomophobic” if the answers to the earlier questionnaire fall within the 21 points (mild nomophobia) to 101 points (severe nomophobia) or above.
Within the context of both smartphone addictions and nomophobia more specifically, signs and symptoms can include:
- Social phobias
- Social anxiety disorder
- Reduction of face-to-face interactions
- Obsessive mobile phone checking
- Distress and irritability when smartphone stops working properly, internet connectivity is lost, the battery dies, or the phone is lost
- Depression when any of the above is true
- Loss of sleep
- The need to have the phone on to sleep
One should not take active participation in social media as a sign of positive emotional status as well. Despite this, an individual suffering with a smartphone addiction may still be experiencing feelings of loneliness and depression, which are marked by mood and habit changes.
Social media addictions: signs and symptoms
As with smartphone addictions, social media addictions share a lot in common with internet addictions. However, social media addicts tend to focus their mental and emotional energy specifically on social media, and may not turn to other areas, such as casual internet browsing or online gaming, to gain the same psychological rewards inherent with any addiction.
In a review of the psychological literature on social media addictions, Daria Kuss and Mark Griffiths write:
“[E]xtraverts appear to use social networking sites for social enhancement, whereas introverts use it for social compensation, each of which appears to be related to greater usage, as does low conscientiousness and high narcissism. Negative correlates of [Social Networking Sites] usage include the decrease in real life social community participation and academic achievement, as well as relationship problems, each of which may be indicative of potential addiction.”
Kuss and Griffiths additionally note that all of the following appear to correlate with social media addictions:
- Neglect of personal life
- Mental preoccupation
- Mood modifying experiences
- Concealing the addictive behavior
Kuss and Griffiths explain that these behaviors are common with addictions in general, but appear to be particularly true for some individuals who use social media to excess.
To that effect, we can consider the above to be distinct signs of a social media addiction, when combined with what we already know to be more obvious signs of social media addiction, such as constant posting on and scrolling through social media accounts.
There is some indication that females may be more likely to develop social media addictions, and that such addictions can lead to body image issues and eating disorders. Additionally, social media addictions and excessive use of social media among younger individuals, such as teenagers and pre-teens, is directly associated with risky online behaviors.
As internet, smartphone, and social media addictions are still considered a new, and sometimes controversial subject, treatment for these issues is less prevalent and less well defined than many other well-established addictions.
However, it is best to think of and treat these addictions as similar to other behavioral addictions, such as gambling addictions, eating disorders, or even sex addictions. Additionally, as easy it’s for many professional to underestimate the life impact of these addictions, it’s common to find that similar resources for other behavioral addictions simply do not exist for these internet-related addictions.
As research helps change opinions on the reality and problematic nature of these addictions, however, greater attention is being given to providing addicts with some assistance. To that effect, more resources now exist than just a decade ago, and many suggestions for self-help for those with milder cases do exist as well.
Treating mild to moderate internet, smartphone, and social media addictions
Mild-to-moderate addictions can be managed using some fairly simple self-help methods. For this, we’ve applied some research on how behavioral addictions are often treated, as well as some sound advice on breaking habits, which are a marker for these and other types of addictions.
Detoxing is not just for chemical dependencies. It’s important to remember that when you have a behavioral addiction, such as technology-related addictions, you are exciting the pleasure centers of the brain and releasing chemicals into your body. These chemicals draw you back into the behavior, but you need more of that behavior at extended intervals to get the same feeling. Self-detoxing is one method to help break mild addictions.
Here are some ways to help detox:
- Start with a full ban on technology for a set amount of time. Addiction expert Dr. Young has her patients start with a 72-hour detox, in which no technology is used at all that might feed the addiction. This may be hard for some individuals, but can be useful and necessary as a first step.
- Create a regular schedule for when you can use your technology. This may require you to have the help of a family member or friend who can keep you on schedule. After the initial detox period, schedule set amounts of time each week where you can use technology. While on your “off” times, find something to do that will occupy your mind. A good thing to do is immerse yourself in a physical task that requires some mental energy and focus, such as cleaning or yard work. It’s a good idea to keep this habit going even after you break the addiction.
- Decrease the amount of time you’re allotted in your schedule each week. Use a graduated approach to slowly reduce the amount of time you give yourself during your scheduled times. The idea here is to change your behavior so that you become more used to doing other activities during those times.
- Go on complete technology fasts. This means going for entire periods, such as a day, or several days, where you aren’t using technology at all. This may be particularly challenging if your work or life requires engagement in technology. However, try to organize your schedule in such a way that this is possible.
Develop new behaviors
Developing new behaviors is going to be important to recovering from a technology disorder. Part of the reason why you or a loved one started to develop that addiction is due to the use of technology become a behavior.
- Find a new hobby. One way to develop a new behavior is to find a new hobby that will help you decrease the time you’re immersing yourself into your technology addiction and habit. This might include taking up a sport, learning an instrument, or learning a language. Dedication to any of these is key, so the following will be helpful.
- Pay for a regularly scheduled class that doesn’t involve technology use. The key here is the payment part. If you try to take classes that are voluntary, e.g., there’s no payment involved and therefore little personal investment, it’s easy to shove them off and instead re-immerse yourself in your addiction. However, if you pay for classes related to your new hobby, such as music lessons, language lessons, art classes, etc., then you’re more likely to feel personally invested and less likely to miss the class. Additionally, the class will incentivize you to practice that new hobby at home to show improvements in the class during the next session.
Make the technology inaccessible to yourself
This action may take a friend or family member to assist. However, if you limit your ability to access your technology, or make it so that the technology is only accessible with the aid of someone else, you increase your chances of helping decrease the behavior and addiction. For technology addictions, this may mean giving a loved one control of your computers and accounts. Only turn to this method with someone you implicitly trust.
You can have those individuals make a password on your computer such that you cannot access it without their permission. You can also have them set a new password for your social media accounts, in which you can only access the account or change the password with their permission and action. For smartphone addictions, you may want to give up your device and only give yourself access to it when your loved one hands it over.
You may also want to consider deleting your social media apps from your mobile devices. This way, you can only access those applications from your web browser. An ease of access feeds many addictions. Creating roadblocks to your access may help you fight the addiction.
Even with mild to moderate addictions, expect to experience significant mood changes with this one. A large part of addiction is control. Giving up control can be terrifying and result in angry and frustrated outbursts as well as noticeable depression. These feelings will fade as you become more used to having less control over the source of your addiction but will begin to fade as your brain adjusts to new behaviors.
Treating severe addictions
If you or a loved one are suffering from a serious technology addiction, we recommend seeking help from a skilled professional. When someone gets to the point where the addiction is causing significant life changes and impacting health and relationships, it’s important to have an immediate change.
If working with a loved one, go for an intervention. Interventions can be tough to plan and pull off correctly, but it’s important to remember that when you do an intervention, the mood in the room and the language you use should be firm, but loving at all times. The addict will almost always lash out in anger, use name calling, and at times even physical violence. This is all part of the addiction, the first part of which is denial that there is a problem.
To learn more about effective interventions, click here to access a helpful guide from the Mayo Clinic.
Find an addiction recovery center
Addiction recovery centers abound. Most countries have a few, and there’s a good chance that there is one in your city or town, or nearby. As mentioned earlier, technology addictions are still poorly defined, but most addiction centers will be willing to run an assessment at least and if need be, take a patient who appears to be suffering from a behavioral addiction of any kind, even technology addictions.
There are also some smaller addiction centers and services you may use, including:
- UK Addiction Treatment Centers (Mostly substance abuse, but does include gambling addictions. May take technology addiction sufferers)
- Nightingale Hospital (London)
Join a support group and use aftercare
This is more of a step for after seeking effective treatment. Following your addiction treatment for a severe addiction, it’s important to maintain encouragement from those who can understand your struggles. Part of the process involves joining a support group and availing yourself of aftercare services. Most rehabilitation and treatment centers will have information on support groups and other aftercare services.
Without aftercare, it’s incredibly easy to fall back into bad habits. Addiction is a lifetime struggle. Once addictive habits have taken hold and reached a severe range, it may be impossible for your life to be the same ever again, or for you to have a normal relationship with the addiction-causing technology. This is particularly true because of how much of addiction is tied to genetics.
As with substance addictions, behavioral addictions can come screaming back when you let your guard down. Recovering from a severe technology addiction will take constant maintenance on your behalf and will take the involvement of your loved ones to keep you living a happy, healthy, addiction-free life.
For parents: Managing technology use through parental control software and apps
Parents can take an actionable approach for their children by using parental software to help manage screen time and access to sites more commonly associated with internet addiction.
Parental control software usually comes in the form of apps and operating system tools that allow parents to monitor all incoming and outgoing traffic on a device. These tools, such as Qustodio, typically allow parents to control internet access in a few ways:
- By monitoring and receiving alerts when certain types of websites are access
- By applying filters to block out adult content
- By blacklisting certain websites, including pornographic sites, gaming sites, and social media sites
- By implementing app limit which restricts how much time can be spent on certain apps
- By allowing parents to turn internet access to specific devices on or off remotely, or allow for a schedule for when internet access is available
Many parental control tools come as part of more extensive antivirus software applications. Symantec, for example, offers its Norton Family Premier tools as a separate application, or as part of its Norton 360 Deluxe software package. Others, like the earlier mentioned Qustodio, focus their efforts purely on standalone parental control software.
Related: Qustodio review
Depending on your needs and the amount of control you wish to have, it may be worthwhile exploring all of your options to help regain control of your children’s’ internet usage and help reduce or stem a slide into addiction.