TimesOnline has an article on internet addiction. Here are some bullets.
- Does internet addiction exist? "The medical world is divided as to whether internet addiction actually exists."
- There are now 12-step programs for internet addicts. "Online Gamers Anonymous offers a 12-step programme to help compulsive players to wean themselves off games such as World of Warcraft, EverQuest and Final Fantasy."
- Internet game-success substitutes for real-life non-success. The more a person plays one of these games, "the more they can “progress to being someone more important”, which they are unable to do in real life. To continue enjoying this elevated status they must get better and better at the game, playing for increasingly long periods of time."
- A significant minority of internet users are addicted. "Three years ago, an article in the journal Advances in Psychiatric Treatment posited that a “substantial minority” of the 46.6 million web users in Britain — some experts reckon 5-10 per cent — may be addicts. In 2006, a report from Stanford Medical School in the US estimated that almost 14 per cent of the 180 million Americans with internet access found it difficult to stop using the web for more than a few days."
- Avid internet game-players have failing marriages. "On Gamerwidow.com, other halves of avid players vent their frustration at failing marriages. One “widow” wrote recently: “At first I thought that [gaming] was better than him being in a bar, but he started to become detached from even me. For years I begged him to please come to bed — sometimes he would go to work on just one hour of sleep.”"
- Addiction is built in to internet games. "Hilarie Cash, a mental health counsellor in America who runs ReStart, a treatment clinic for internet addiction, believes that games makers deliberately give their products an “addictive quality”. Many, she says, use the principle of intermittent reinforcement — “you have to be rewarded often enough to stay engaged but not so predictably that you get bored” — in the same way that fruit machines are designed to pay out to gamblers at certain intervals, to make the games more attractive. “Game-making companies hire psychologists to help them to design the right intermittent reinforcement schedule, but there is little effort on the part of these companies to put out warnings.”