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In this section, we will examine four techniques useful in introducing the idea of internet addiction to teen clients. These three introductory techniques include: Defining Addiction; Web Quiz; and Assessing the Damage.
As of 2021, 95% of teens in the US use the internet, mostly via mobile phones. This new generation is developing in a time of mass consumerism and mass communication. Although they may feel more connected, they are in fact only connected to a world that does not reflect reality. This fantasy web land seduces teenagers into an escapism that can ultimately result in addiction.
Ron, age 14, had first been introduced to the seductive power of the web through online movie message boards in which he made a completely different identity for himself. During the week, he would spend over eighty hours online posting on message boards and playing games. He would rarely sleep. When he finally collapsed from exhaustion one day at school, Ron had suspected that it might be an emotional problem. He described his lifestyle to me, and I decided to suggest that he might have an addiction to the internet.
Ron stated, "How can I be addicted?! It's just a machine. It's not like I'm inhaling anything!" Have you heard claims like this before? I asked him the following question, "Ron, what do you think an addict is?" He stated, "Someone who can't get control of their lives because of a drug." I replied, "What if you replaced ‘drug’ with 'action'? Couldn't that also have the same effect on someone's life too? Really, an addiction is a behavior or substance that draws us in so much that it interferes with our lives and we lose control."
Think of your Ron. How would you define "addiction" to him or her?
♦ #2 Web Quiz
After taking the quiz, Ron stated, "This sounds a lot like what a heroin addict would be doing, not a sane person. But it's exactly how I've lived my life for the past few months." Think of your client. What other questions could you ask him or her? Would playing this section for one of your internet-addicted clients be beneficial?
♦ #3 Assessing the Damage: Part One
Janelle stated, "I loved the attention. It was great! No one judged me except by what I gave them. Everyone at school calls me fatso. I wasn't fat to those guys at their computer. But when I couldn't stop, it started getting serious. They started calling my house and my mom picked up once. I was so scared they were going to find me."
I asked her, "How do you know that those chat buddies aren't all thirty or older? Would they tell you if they knew it would repulse you?" Janelle stated, "Well, no. And I guess I can't really tell how they feel about me over instant messenger." I asked Janelle to "Assess the Damage" that her internet usage has done to her actions in public and to write these observations down in a journal.
Janelle wrote, "I can't trust anyone I can't see. I'm afraid of new things. I feel much better being quiet and by myself." Rather than improving her self-esteem, her trauma with the internet caused Janelle to become more of a recluse. Think of your Janelle. Is he or she suffering from low self-esteem? Is he or she compensating with long hours on the computer?
♦ #4 Assessing the Damage: Part Two
While Janelle only answered "occasionally" to many of these questions, Ron answered "often" and "always" to nearly every question. Obviously, these two clients varied significantly in their absorption into the internet. Think of your Ron and Janelle. How do you think he or she would respond to these questions? How deeply are they involved in internet usage?
In this section, we presented techniques useful in introducing the idea of internet addiction to clients. These techniques included: Defining Addiction; Web Quiz; and Assessing the Damage.
In the next section, we will examine types of emotional attachment to the internet.
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