Therapists report an increase in cases of ‘Internet addiction’

World Today

Therapists report an increase in cases of 'Internet addiction'

For many, it’s a constant companion that the first thing viewed in the morning and the last thing seen at night.

In the era of smartphones and tablets, access to digital media is constantly one click way.

Last year, the World Health Organization added gaming disorder to its list of diseases.

And these days therapists are increasingly dealing with Internet addiction.

CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports.

It’s Friday night in Lakewood, Colorado, and electronic sports enthusiasts do battle on-screen and with each other.

“Esports is exploding,” said James Love, Communications Director for the Esports venue Localhost Arena which opened here in December. “It’s growing hand over fist.”

Practice has paid off for Jeremiah Allen whose talent for playing the video game Fortnite is encouraged by his coach, his dad.

“He’s putting in anywhere from two to five hours a day,” Bob Allen said as he watched his son in action.

That describes the Forrest Barnes of the past several years. He’s a recovering YouTube video and video game addict who now sits on the other end of the stimulation spectrum.

“I was in a pretty steep nose dive,” said 23-year-old Barnes recently. He talked about his YouTube fixation.

“I actually was watching it double speed even, so I effectively consumed about 190 hours of YouTube content in a single week,” he said.

Barnes added that his habit started costing him in his studies and in life.

“It eventually came to a head last semester when I almost failed almost every course I was taking,” he said. “And I decided I couldn’t do it anymore.”

Barnes came to the Digital Media Treatment and Education Center in Boulder, Colorado. The center specializes in treating people with digital addiction.

It claims its research shows up to 18 percent of young adults and nearly 10 percent of adolescents fall into that category.

“It’s absolutely an under-recognized problem, and it’s an overlooked problem,” said Tracy Markle, the center’s co-founder. Last year, the World Health Organization added gaming disorder to its list of diseases.

Markle said screen overuse in general can be quite damaging in several ways.

“Not performing well at work,” she said. “Potentially losing a job, not having effective self-care.” Not to mention not connecting well with others. The center employs coaching and support groups as part of its treatment.

“We approach it through the lens of harm reduction and through the lens of abstinence,” Markle said. “So we get creative with every client that we have to figure out what plan will be most effective for them.”

Markle said while Europe and China have long dealt with the digital addiction issue, the U.S. still lags behind in this area. Love insisted Esports is often a force for good. His company runs summer camps for gamers to help them become more well-rounded individuals.

“We teach better communication, not rage quitting and how to lose gracefully and win with dignity,” Love said.

Barnes has gone YouTube and gaming-free for several months now.

“Initially, it was very tough,” he said. “The trajectory is only up from here as far as I can tell.”

He stressed that It’s up to each person to recognize and fix their screen addiction, and ensure that it doesn’t dominate their lives.