New research suggests that Internet addiction on college campuses may be a bigger problem than many are willing to admit.
"Virtual gaming, where participants take an identity, has exploded in the past 10 years, particularly among 18 to 30 year olds," Sabrina Neu, a graduate school student at the University of the Rockies wrote in her doctoral dissertation. "Online game subscriber numbers are in the millions and profits for game developers are in the billions of dollars.
"The student lifestyle, with unlimited Internet access, large blocks of unstructured time, and absence of supervision, may place students at greater risk for over-utilization."
Neu did note several potential benefits to online gaming, such as players being able to overcome shyness and/or free themselves from physical disabilities, but also noted that it's common for college kids to lose sleep, miss meals, skip class, and withdraw from social interaction because of excess online game playing.
"Despite many pro-social benefits, there is also a harmful side," Neu said. "Players can suffer consequences such as neglecting friends and family and arranging one's real world life to fully accommodate game playing."
Kids say the darnedest things, don't they? At least the ones with social skills do. But what about the group of "screenagers" who spend more than six hours a day on the Internet?
For them, London has opened its first clinic designed to treat adolescent Internet addiction. According to London's Evening Standard newspaper, the Capio Nightingale Hospital will treat children who are so hooked on technology their health is at risk.
"Technology addiction is like gambling, you end up with withdrawal symptoms such as agitation," explained Dr. Richard Graham, an expert in child and teen disorders and head of Capio Nightingale's Young Person Technology Addiction Service. "You get hyper-stimulated so you're always on the alert. What we need are official guidelines now on what counts as healthy or unhealthy use of technology."
Children as young as 12 will have to go "cold turkey" in a residential unit to wean them off their compulsion, at which point they would then be taught face-to-face social skills.
"Mental health services need to adapt quickly to the changing worlds that young people inhabit, and understand just how seriously their lives can be impaired by unregulated time online, on-screen, or in-game," Graham added. "We have found that many of the existing services fail to recognize the complexity of these situations, borrowing from older models of addiction and substance misuse."
We wanted to scream bloody murder when our folks would hide the power adapter for our Atari 2600 after a night-long gaming session. For those of you who have no idea what we're talking about, it's the equivalent to having your DSi yanked from your backpack. But no matter which generation you grew up in, it looks like we all had it easy, at least compared to kids growing up in China. Up until recently, youths diagnosed with Internet addiction were subject to beatings and confinement.
New rules have now banned such unpleasantness following the beating death of a teenager in August, which led to the discovery of abuse at other clinics. That was enough for China to reach a revelation that maybe a different approach was needed.
"Parents and teachers must analyze the causes and not arbitrarily condemn, hit, or scold youths...intervention methods that restrict personal freedom are strictly forbidden and corporal punishment is strictly forbidden," read new regulations posted on the health ministry's website.
According to local press reports, China had up to 10 million teenage Web addicts and at least 400 private Internet rehab centers nationwide in August.