Digital addiction: Have you fallen into the web?

Digital addiction: Have you fallen into the web?

WILMINGTON, NC (FOX WILMINGTON) - New research shows that teens are spending nine hours of every day in front of some sort of screen.

According to a new report from Common Sense Media, the time is spent watching online videos, playing music or video games, listening to music and using social media. The number excludes the time spent online for homework.

Common Sense is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a goal of trying to improve the lives of kids, families and educators. Their research is based on a national survey of more than 2,600 young people.

Teens, however, are not the only ones spending hours on devices.

Some who we spoke to in downtown Wilmington said they check their phones 100 to 200 times a day.

But when does your love of the internet, your cell phone and social media cross over into something serious?

Psychologists say they are seeing more patients suffering from digital addiction.

Karin Kassab, a psychologist at Clarity Counseling Center in Wilmington, said internet addicts usually fall into four categories:

-The online gamer

-The pornography addict

-Those addicted to online gambling

-The Facebook mom

"The negative consequences at their extreme are failing to fulfill social and work obligations," Kassab explained. "These are the Facebook moms who forget to put their kids to bed or forget to pick their kids up from school. The online gamers who are spending so much time gaming that they lose their job and move back home. When we are talking internet addiction, it is important to note, this is excessive internet use at its extreme. The tokens are excessive internet use and big problems at work, school or socially."

Even so, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not classify internet addiction as a diagnosis. The most-recent edition of the manual, which serves as a guide for psychologists, went into effect October 1, 2015.

"There's great debate over whether internet addiction is actually its own stand alone disorder or if it is a consequence of a co-occurring disorder," Kassab explained. "So, am I depressed therefore that manifests into me staying in, being isolated on the internet?"

Kassab said despite the debate, she is treating patients for internet addiction and its symptoms.

"When we are talking internet addiction, it is important to note, this is excessive internet use at its extreme," she said. "The tokens are excessive internet use and big problems at work, school or socially."

Kassab said internet addiction can be even harder to treat than alcoholism because in this day and age, it is nearly impossible to avoid smart phones or the internet because it's likely many need to be online for jobs or schoolwork.

She said it's usually treated with what psychologists call a "nutrition model."

"It's the quality of your internet time and cutting out, like a diet, the junk food," Kassab explained. "So, if I have a gamer who is using the internet excessively for gaming, we may not use the internet for gaming ever. But we might use the internet for an airplane flight reservation."

Kassab recommends that even if you aren't addicted, you limit your time on the internet.

She recommends that families practice "electronic free family time," which could include an hour after dinner with no devices.

For other tips on how to use the internet responsibly, click here.

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