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Balancing Your Internet Use


We spend a lot of time on our computers while at work, but what about at home? The Internet has provided communication tools that have opened a new domain in social interaction. It is now possible to publish personal thoughts or ideas from the privacy of your own home, to a vast audience of hundreds or even thousands of individuals. It is now possible to chat with people from around the globe, and to maintain instant messaging relationships with strangers.

Research on Internet use is limited, but it is growing. There is controversy about whether or not Internet use can become an addiction. Dr. Kimberly Young (1), an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, coined the phrase “Pathological Internet Use,” to describe the condition she studied in 396 cases. Dr. Young presented her findings at the American Psychological Association convention in 1996, in which the symptoms of problematic Internet use were matched to those of pathological gambling. These and other questions about problematic Internet use will remain unanswered, until more controlled studies are done.

How many individuals are likely to be effected? A 1998 study of 18,000 Internet users, who logged onto the ABC News Web Site, found that 5.7 percent of the sample met the criteria for compulsive Internet use (2). The majority of those who become “addicted” to the Internet do so in their first six months of exposure, after which their use levels subside.

If you are concerned about how much you use the Internet, consider these suggestions (3):


(1) Young, K. “Pathological Internet Use: the Emergence of a New Clinical Disorder.” Paper presented to the American Psychological Association, Toronto, 1996.

(2) DeAngelis, T. “Is Internet Addiction Real? More Research is Being Conducted to Explore the Way People Use—and Misuse—the Internet.” Monitor on Psychology, Volume 31 (4), 2000.

(3) Self-help strategies adapted from Goldstein, D. and Flory, J. Best of the Net Online Guide Book Series. Toronto, Canada: Irwin Professional Publishing, 1998, and from Jonathan Kandell, Ph.D., Psychologist and Assistant Director of the University Counseling Center, University of Maryland—College Park, 1996.