Parents fear Internet addiction

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lizwool
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Parents fear Internet addiction

http://www.parentcentral.ca/parent/articlePrint/523702

Parents fear Internet addiction

Andrea Gordon
October 24, 2008

A growing number of parents and family therapists are seeking help for teens who appear to be hooked on cyberspace.

Addiction specialists say that in some cases kids are jeopardizing their health through compulsive Internet behaviour that includes staying up all night, skipping school and withdrawing from their real-life friends or sports to immerse themselves in online games or surfing the Web.

"We've been receiving at least a couple of calls a week asking, 'How do you deal with Internet addiction?' " says Bruce Ballon, a psychiatrist with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto. "(Society is) just starting to realize aEU" oh my God, it's so huge. This is why people have been afraid to open the doors."

In response, CAMH has just launched a small pilot program to treat teens with problematic computer behaviour ranging from excessive online gaming to gambling.

Ballon, director of the new Adolescent Clinical Education Service, says there are eight patients aged 16 to 24 enrolled. CAMH treated a dozen teens with similar problems before the new program was developed, and has identified 18 more on its roster who need help with compulsive online behaviour.

Internet addiction came into the spotlight this week after the disappearance of Barrie teen Brandon Crisp. Brandon went missing Thanksgiving Monday, after his dad removed his Xbox from the house. Steve Crisp says he had confiscated it at least 20 times since Brandon became "obsessed" with the online war game Call of Duty 4. He began to skip school, stay up all night and steal money.

The teen hasn't been seen since that day. Addiction experts stress that treating compulsive computer behaviour can be tricky. The term "Internet addiction" is a catch-all phrase for a problem that manifests itself many ways aEU" from online gambling to pornography to role-playing in a make-believe game.

Those who treat teens agree that, like other addictions, excessive Internet use is a sign of underlying problems and often goes hand-in-hand with mental health issues such as depression or an anxiety disorder. Limited initial research shows the kids most vulnerable to it lack social skills, tend to isolate themselves and internalize emotional stress. Those with conditions like Asperger's or autism are also thought to be more at risk.

Addictions and Problem Gambling Services of Ottawa has been offering counselling for Internet addiction for five years.

"We realized there was a need because we started getting requests from teachers, social workers and parents," says addictions therapist Clara Panarella.

Panarella considers technology dependence "a learned behaviour," but notes the growing body of brain research showing that, for some kids, computer activities stimulate the brain's dopamine surge or "pleasure pathways," providing a "high" they seek repeatedly.

The American Journal of Psychiatry wants Internet addiction included as a brain illness in the updated edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) expected in 2012. The DSM is the official reference source for psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health counsellors.

Pennsylvania psychologist Kimberly Young, founder of the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery (netaddiction.com), predicts the problem will become more common as the first generation of kids raised with joysticks in their hands and cellphones on their ears approaches adulthood.

"It's in the closet still," she said in a phone interview. Young first researched the issue for her 1998 book Caught in the Net, about recognizing and treating Internet addiction. Since then, she's heard from parents whose kids throw tantrums when the computer is unplugged and will beg, borrow and steal to get online. But people routinely dismiss the problem as "just a phase" or blame bad parenting, she says. "If we were talking about this in the context of drugs," people would be very alarmed.

Korea, China and Taiwan are already tackling such problems head-on, with government-funded treatment programs. Korea, one of the world's most wired societies, last year launched the Jump Up Internet Rescue School, a boot camp and rehab program, and has also set up a network of 140 Internet-addiction counselling centres.

Treating the problem isn't easy, because so much of modern life depends on the Internet. Ballon says CAMH takes a harm reduction approach that helps motivate clients to develop balanced habits and decide what they should avoid.

Hamish White, of the private firm Recovery Counselling Services in Toronto, says young people with a computer addiction can learn to abstain from specific activities or visiting specific sites, while still using the technology for other things.

Jennifer Shapka, assistant professor and educational psychologist at the University of British Columbia, is leading a study of the effects of daily Internet use on kids 10 to 15 in the lower B.C. mainland.

Preliminary results have her concerned about how much time 20 per cent of those teens spend online aEU" some more than 10 hours a day.

But when it comes to unhealthy behaviour, it's not the computer that's the problem, she says: It's the underlying issues that create any addictive behaviour.

"For the most part, I think kids and teens are using the Internet in appropriate ways."

Liz Woolley

abbyna
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My boyfriend had this

My boyfriend had this problem several months ago , he was so into Online gambling that he ignored me, his family and until I threat him that I will leave him he wouldn't quit gambling.

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Hi there Abby, As you may

Hi there Abby,

As you may have surmised from looking around our site a bit more, OLGA/OLGA-NON is a site for folks who have issues with compulsive video game playing, such as World of Warcraft, Aion, Second Life, and others. As such, we really don't have much expertise in the area of gambling (online or casino, lottery, horse-racing, etc.)

Although we're not affiliated with or endorse this group, Gamblers Anonymous (www.gamblersanonymous.org) does have much more experience dealing with gambling such as you described with your boyfriend. They also have many face-to-face meetings, maybe even one in your area.

Good luck with all this. I know that gambling addiction is very hard on individuals and families.

Jane in CT

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Hello Mautzu,  We are here

Hello Mautzu, We are here for excesssive gamers, not gamblers. We do not judge which addiction is worst. A person with any addiction goes through a lot of suffering because of it.

Liz Woolley

weasel
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I know that the idea is to

I know that the idea is to give up gaming/gambling etc. But you can't just quit from one moment to another. Suppose someone is gambling online using their regular bank account / credit card. This will negatively affect their credit rating as on their bank statements gambling transactions will show up. Can you somehow do anonymous online gambling whilst you're trying to give up?

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Hi, I'm sorry but I don't

Hi, I'm sorry but I don't think we can help you with this type of advice. First, we don't really deal with gambling here at all, and second we don't tend to give people tips or pointers on how to continue addictive behavior.

If there is something gaming-addiction-related we can help with, please feel free to ask.

Jane in CT

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