Over the last decade, the Internet has become an integral part of the life for most people. Today, at least once in a day, an individual visits the World Wide Web in order to socialize, work, or just search for information online. Undoubtedly, the Internet is of utmost importance in a modern world and is of great benefit to humanity as an inexhaustible source of information, affordable way to acquire skills and knowledge, indispensable tool in the work and business, means of planning and leisure, as well as a place for dating and a way to maintain communication. The list all the advantages and benefits of this realm is infinite, but it should be taken in mind that the Internet has become a worldwide social problem.
The advantages of the Internet use may be cancelled by the growing interest to the problem, connected to its use - the Internet addiction. It is the most widespread and challenging problem of a modern society. The amount of the Internet addicts is rapidly increasing, since every day increasingly more people achieve their Internet account and join the virtual life inhabitants.
What Is the Internet Addiction?
There is no clinical diagnosis in DSM IV for the Internet addiction. This is not surprising, since there is little known about this problem as a whole. However, the word "substance" researchers place onto "the Internet" and study this addiction type as any other abuse (Ng and Wiemer-Hastings 110). According to Dowling and Brown, the Internet addiction is a behavioral addiction that is similar to gambling (437). People, exposed to this disorder, spend long hours and even days sitting out in front of their computer monitors and using the Web. They often forget to eat or sleep; they quit the education and jobs, have depression, hostility, ADHD and various mental disorders as well as socializing difficulties (Lam, Peng, Mai & Jing). Family, work, school, and friends - all of these become insignificant. The Internet addicts cannot spend a minute without the Net and become angry and bored, when the connection is shut down.
In her article "Internet addiction: A New Clinical Phenomenon and Its Consequences", Young gives a diagnosis criteria for the Internet dependence (404). They are a compulsive craving to check the e-mail, constant desire to connect to the Net, claims of too much time spent on the on-line services use by the near and dear, and claims for too much money spent on the Internet surfing. These four simple criterions help to identify whether an individual is an Internet addict or not.
Internet Application. Thus, there are some several types of the Internet use, which lead to the Internet dependence. This is, for example, the porn-dependence - the most common, although relatively a safe addiction (TYT University "Are You Addicted to Internet"). Porn and various sex-content videos watchers are still in the lead in search engines; 70 % of adult men and 38 % of women from time to time are obsessed with this on-line service (Young, "Internet Addiction: The Emergency of a New Clinical Disorder" 240). The desire for watching erotic videos over the Net often turns into the cybersex addiction. When a person is not satisfied with only watching and wishes a new experience, but is too shy to have a sexual relationship with a real person, the cybersex possibility appears (TYT University "Does the Internet Change Our Brains?"). Another popular Internet use is gambling. There are lots of gambling services on the Internet such as on-line casinos, poker services, pari-mutuel services, etc. The Internet is also used for communication, searching for useful information, working over the Web, and playing on-line games.
Adolescents and the Internet
Social networking and texting are the most common Internet use for youngsters and adolescents. Young people are more likely to find new relations and socialize; thus, the online communication is one of the easiest ways to find people to communicate with. There exists a stereotype for the on-line communication dependent. It is usually a male introvert, with no or little social life and low self-confidence (Griffiths 212). Communication in cyberspace creates the illusion of friendship, family, allows a person to portray him-/herself as what he/she wants - young, beautiful , rich , etc. However, this does not mean all the Internet addicts meet this stereotype. For example, on-line games addicts are not only young boys and girls; they are often middle-aged individuals, having families and jobs. They usually play on-line games in order to escape the mundane life, get a new experience and escape from life difficulties such as family conflicts, lack of money, problems at work (TYT University "Are You Addicted to the Internet?"). Another reason for adults to become the Internet addicts is replacing one dependence by another (for example, the drinking habit to the gaming one).
It is known that any abuse is more likely to affect a child than an adult. Since child's or teenager's mind is malleable, the virtual world is more attractive for an adolescent that the real one, with all its injustice and stresses. Since teenagers tend to maximize their life problems and withdraw into themselves, the Internet frequently becomes the only way to be heard. In addition, parents often tend to demand increasingly more from their children - higher grades, betters sport results, more practicing (Journeyman Pictures). Thus, a teenager escapes from severities of life into the World Wide Web.
The mentioned variant of an escape is described in the Polish film directed by Jan Komasa Suicide Room. The main character is a typical introverted teenager, who escapes from embarrassment and parents' pressure to the on-line service called a Suicide Room. When his father breaks his modem, he commits a suicide by taking lethal dose of sedatives, since he cannot live without the Suicide Room. The story looks terrifying, but it is not unique. In fact, committing suicides as well as any other lethal consequences are common for the Internet addicts. A 13-year-old girl jumps over the roof, since she is sure that her life will be reloaded as it happens in the computer game. A man was sentenced to the life imprisonment for stabbing the 23-year-old gamer to death because of the argument for a sword in the on-line game. China Judge claims 90 per cents of teenage crimes are committed on the Internet background (Journeyman Pictures).
In addition, the Internet addicts are more likely to become abused by other risky agents such as alcohol and addictive substances. Ko et al. made a research, examining the risk of achieving of substance abuse experiences among the school-aged Taiwan adolescents, and the study showed they are indeed more frequently has the substance use experience (890). Furthermore, the Internet is said to have a negative impact on the human brain, and that means that the adolescent brain is affected faster and deeper. The Internet addicts are more disposed to ADHD and compulsive behavior. A physical effect, which the Internet dependence makes on the human brain, is similar to that of alcohol and drugs. The brain of an addicted person is smaller than that of a healthy one, it has an abnormal amount of white matter together with structural abnormalities in the gray matter. Furthermore, the brain areas responsible for the cognitive ability, like speech, memory, motor control, emotion, sensory and other information, is shrinked (The Young Turks). Together with brain effects, the Internet dependence affects the cardiovascular system, as well as the sense of vision, since the permanent sitting by the computer screen brings to nought the physical activity and increases the load to the eyes. Addicts have a vulnerable immune system and disturbed sleeping patterns (Young 242).
Besides the physical symptoms of the addiction, there exist psychiatric ones. Yen et al. conducted a research aimed at the psychiatric symptoms' comparison for the Internet addicted and non-addicted adolescents. The study showed that addicted adolescents are more likely to have a behavioral disorder such as depression, hostility and emotional difficulty (13). Adolescents having an Internet abuse are cold and have no emotion towards surrounding people, except their on-line friends (Journeyman Pictures). In addition, the dependence increases the risk of vulnerable behavior and eliminates the coping ability with the real world.
Notwithstanding, the notion of the Internet dependence is now widespread and the adolescents themselves understand that living a virtual life is not the sanctuary. They created a habit to use the Internet services every day and the refusal of surfing trough the Web becomes a real challenge. One can find a wide variety of videos, blog posts and recording of teenager stop using the Internet on a specified period. Such experiments show that even a day without on-line services becomes a torture. A girl made a video of her "free of Internet day" and uploaded it on the YouTube service. She says that the whole day without mundane procedures, like listening to music on-line, surfing through World Wide Web and communicating, is boring ("Internet Dependency"). Unfortunately, this is not a surprise, since teenagers, who get used to entertain themselves with the help of the Net cannot find an entertainment without it. The habit gets into the brain so deeply that they have forgotten how to live a normal "real" life. Consequently, attempts to get rid of the Internet addiction are encouraging. However, teenagers find it impossible to live completely without the Net, and everything starts again, since the modern education is impossible without the Internet use; thus, adolescents and youngsters keep using the World Wide Web every day.
In order to make a conclusion, it should be mentioned that an easy opportunity to escape from the real life full of stress lures a person in a virtual fantasy world. Virtual relationships, entertainment, shopping, studying, communication and even sexual relationships seem quite ideal. However, the Internet is only a tool. The problem is inside the society. The Internet itself is a neutral mean to view and absorb new information; it is the human imagination what makes it and endlessly interesting.
Opinions on the notion of the Internet use are different. Some see it as a prophetic picture of the future nightmare, where a man is completely enslaved by machines. Others beat the alarm and warn that people, who spend a lot of time online, lose the ability to communicate with the real world, as well as live in the present. The third group reports a variety of disease manifestations, which can be caused by the Net use. However, the researchers have one common argument that an excessive use of the Internet leads to an addiction, and the addiction, in its turn, cannot bring anything, but harm.
Unfortunately, adolescents are most vulnerable to the influence of the Internet. Today, more than 2 billion people are registered in social networks, and this amount is constantly growing. 64 per cent of registered individuals are young people under the age of 17 years old (Emileo). This sounds terrifying, since they are really living in the Internet. This generation has no ability to live a normal life, since they are already born in the world of the virtual environment predominance over the reality.