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Are you an internet addict? These are the signs…

By Kaelanne Jordan

Email: mediarelations.camsel@catholictt.org

Is there any activity (gaming, social media, YouTube, Netflix etc.) that may cause you to pay less attention to others around, reduces your sleep or resulted in you stop doing something you’ve been very good at e.g. hobby, sports?

“If that is the case, then there is a high possibility that you may be showing signs of internet addiction,” said Daren Dhoray, Digital Anthropologist at CyberSafe TT Foundation during his presentation on Internet Addiction for Teenagers (13-19 years) July 17. Dhoray has been studying, researching and presenting on topics related to internet addiction, cyberbullying and social media etiquette to over 25,000 students, parents and teachers collectively from T&T, Grenada, St Lucia, Jamaica, Brazil, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Italy. In 2020, Dhoray became a member of the Facebook Community Contents Guidelines Committee for the Caribbean where he will contribute towards the filtering of inappropriate content to minors on that platform.

The discussion via Zoom was hosted by the Franciscan Institute for Personal and Family Development, a Ministry of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, as part of the Ministry’s anti-human trafficking programme. Over 100 participants, including parents, students and teachers from different schools from T&T, Grenada, St Lucia and Dominica joined.


What is internet addiction?

Dhoray outlined internet addiction as excessive and uncontrollable consumption of internet-related content such as social media news and information, gaming, pornography, shopping, trading etc, resulting in a deterioration of a person’s mental, physical and social well-being.

He stressed, “Pornography is something we have to be mindful of. We use unfiltered internet here and some of us may actually come across that.”

Dhoray explained the different categories of internet addiction.

1. Net compulsion

This type of addiction is related to online gambling, trading stocks, online auctions, trading currency, compulsive online shopping. He told participants, “There may be someone in your household who might be suffering from these things and with your knowledge and information, you might be able to assist them.”

Most affected age groups: young adults 18-35.

Effects: obsessive compulsive, financial, mood swings

2. Online relationship addiction

He observed that persons have been interacting a lot more on screens within the last couple years. The obsession of finding and maintaining relationships online, often forgetting and neglecting real-life family and friends often leads to an inability to make real-world connections.

Most affected age groups: teens 13-18, young adults 18-35, adults >35.

Effects: loss of social interaction, depression, infidelity

3. Compulsive information seeking

This involves an uncontrollable urge to gather and organise news and information. Dhoray underscored that a compulsive information seeker is unable to decipher between real and fake news, often does not research but believes in a single article, rarely gets past the headline and title, and shares uncontrollably.

Most affected age groups: young adults 18-35, adults >35

Effects: social interaction, trust issues, obsessive compulsive

4. Gaming addiction

This type of addiction involves an uncontrollable urge to continue playing games, (over)spending on game addons, interruption of family routine, anxiety over season releases, anger when disconnected.

Most affected age groups: pre-teens <13, teens 13-18, young adults 18-35

Effects: insomnia, vision problems, weight gain/loss, back and neck strain, losing social interaction.

5. Pornography addiction

Pornography addiction includes constant browsing of adult websites, subscriptions to adult content, making inappropriate comments to members of the opposite sex and cyber stalking.

Most affected age groups: teens: 13-18, young adults 18-35, adults >35

Effects: social isolation, depression, distorted reality

6. Binge watching

This type of addiction relates to a desire to (re)look at entire series, drown in seclusion to watch show after show, put off daily responsibilities in lieu of watching, lose hours of sleep and avoid social interaction.

Most affected age groups: pre-teen <13, teens 13-18, young adults 18-35, adults >35

Effects: insomnia, vision problems, weight gain/loss, back and neck strain, loss of social interaction.


Symptoms of internet addiction

· Always thinking about previous online activity or anticipated next online session.

· Needs to use the internet with increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction.

· Has made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop internet use.

· Has stayed online longer than originally intended.

· Is restless, moody, depressed or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop internet use.

· Has jeopardised or risked the loss of a significant relationship, job or educational or careen opportunity because of the internet.

· Has lied to family members, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with the internet.

· Uses the internet as a way of escaping from problems, or having feelings of guilt, anxiety, depression or helplessness.


Long-term effects of internet addiction

· Insomnia

· Vision problems

· Weight gain/loss issues

· Back and neck strain- nerve damage

· Academic decline

· Depression

· Social isolation

· Aggression

· Mood swings


Ideal time to go to bed

Dhoray was asked for advice from a concerned parent on when is the appropriate bedtime for teens. He shared that according to data from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service’s (TTPS) Social Media and Cybercrime Unit—who he has worked with since 2010—the younger generation tend to get in trouble during the hours of 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. This includes the sharing of inappropriate content and the occurrence of cyberbullying.

“…it means that 2 to 4 a.m. there’s a lot of activity that is still happening on the internet.”

He recommends 8 hours of sleep, adding, “I don’t mean lying down on your bed with your eyes open on your phone…By cut-off I mean you should cut-off gaming a while earlier so you can wind down a bit for sleep.”


Keeping an eye on internet addiction

· Identification: identify ‘yes’, I or someone I know might probably have an internet addiction.

· Interruption: interrupt that activity by doing something that will stop you from becoming addicted to the internet.

· Intervention: Seek help


It’s time for a digital detox

· Turn off notifications

· Do not use your phone while eating

· Leave your devices out of the bedroom or more than an arm’s length from the bed

· Establish scheduled internet free time

· Change your screen to grey scale

· Reduce the number of apps on your phone

· When occupied otherwise, keep your phone out of sight

· Rediscover activities that don’t need a device or internet

· Spend time in place that you can truly disconnect