Internet Addiction Research Disappointing


I am not a firm believer of Internet Addiction. One of the main features of addiction is having complaints, suffer complications of the addiction. The main features of an addiction are social and/or emotional problems leading to doctors visit or other forms of help seeking. So what we are looking for is teenagers using the Internet as there only way to communicate, play and doing that at night. Anyone can explain to them why that isn’t healthy. Internet is mostly defined as excessive use, withdrawal, tolerance and negative consequences. If these flimsy characteristics are followed most of us suffer from all kinds of addictions such as work addiction, sports addiction, chocolate addiction well may be you can think of a few more.

Moreover, it seems that people mistake the medium for the message. When they hear that folks are “addicted to the Internet”, they blame the Internet, the medium, for the problem, whereas the Internet is simply provides a new source of behaviors for people who would have had behavioral addictions anyway. Even incorporating this new medium into our culture will be accompanied by getting used to, finding the right balance in your daily routine.

Even in a recent editorial of the American Journal of Psychiatry Internet Addiction is proposed as a new diagnosis in DSM V. Now the American Journal of Psychiatry used to be a serious peer reviewed journal although some of us doubt this feature for a while now.

Beside the these previous mentioned objections to the new diagnosis of Internet Addiction a recent Metasynthesis of the recent quantitative research on this matter came to the following conclusion:

previous studies have utilized inconsistent criteria to define Internet addicts, applied recruiting methods that may cause serious sampling bias, and examined data using primarily exploratory rather than confirmatory data analysis techniques to investigate the degree of association rather than causal relationships among variables.

This study was done to find answers to the questions: How has Internet addiction been measured? What aspects of the Internet addiction phenomenon have been investigated by academic researchers?

  • The biggest problem with studies defining a new syndrome is usually that they don’t use validated diagnostic tools but mostly some severity scale. This is also the trouble with research for depression in the medical ill patients. If someone is severely ill and you use an Hamilton Depression Rating Scale they will almost all have high scores not because they are depressed but because the feel horrible due to their somatic illness.
  • Another big problem is that Internet Addiction is not clearly defined in the recent scientific publications and research. Some researchers have adapted substance use disorder, while others reference pathological gambling, resulting in an inconsistent definition of Internet addiction. Many researchers, due to the complex nature of the topic, do not provide a clear definition of Internet addiction.
  • Besides not using a clear definition researchers used different scales for measuring Internet Addiction, and these scales have not been standardized for efficient cross-study comparisons.
  • Most of the studies used Internet-based survey formats as well as used high school and university student samples. The different sample selection criteria across the studies have brought varying conclusions on the prevalence of Internet addiction. Studies on Internet Addiction focus on adolescents. In trying to recruit samples outside of schools most of these sample recruitment methods suffer from sampling bias. This makes generalizing the findings of the study to other populations troublesome to say the least. The sample selection criteria are still far from the randomization principle and raise questions regarding sample coverage errors.
  • Studies on Internet addiction have focused on “proving” the existence of Internet addiction or identify the characteristics of Internet addicts. The analysis methods employed were thus exploratory rather than confirmatory.

How was this study done?
A study was included if it used human participants and a quantitative instrument to measure Internet addiction. To ensure quality and completeness, only fulllength articles in peer-reviewed journals or conference proceedings were considered. Searches of academic databases and of Google and Yahoo! using keywords Internet addiction, Internet addicted, problematic Internet usage, and computer addiction
resulted in 120 articles spanning the period 1996–2006. If you want the whole database of articles please follow this link which downloads a excel file with all the references (120). For this review they used 61 articles from the 120.

Important they didn’t use the important criteria of a prospective design nor using a control group nor randomized attribution to two conditions. That’s the meaning of quantitative data, just counting numbers, not an experimental prospective study design.

In the end the research on this subject until now is biased. This review names the most important flaws from these publications. They offer suggestions to improve the research on this subject. To my opinion their recommendations don’t go far enough. If you want to prove the validity of a concept randomized prospective trials with clear hypothesis before hand are needed. What do you think.

Doctor Shock is not alone, Blogroll against Internet Addiction:
Mind Hacks
How to split an atom
The Metaverse Journal
Sookeun Byun, Celestino Ruffini, Juline E. Mills, Alecia C. Douglas, Mamadou Niang, Svetlana Stepchenkova, Seul Ki Lee, Jihad Loutfi, Jung-Kook Lee, Mikhail Atallah, Marina Blanton (2008). Internet Addiction: Metasynthesis of 1996–2006 Quantitative Research CyberPsychology & Behavior, 2147483647-5 DOI: 10.1089/cpb.2008.0102