This chapter discusses the literature relating to Effects of Internet use and Internet Addiction (IA). The first section introduces the background of the Internet and identifies the prevalence of IA. The second section discusses the definitions of addiction and their relevance to IA.
Background of the Internet
The Internet was established in the early 1960s and subsequently became a mainstream communication vehicle (Moschovitis, Polle, Schuyler, & Senft, 1999; Schneider, et al., 2006). Since that time, there has been remarkable growth in the Internet‟s functionality, capacity, accessibility and convenience. These improvements have encouraged more people to use it more often, and it has become a powerful application in modern society. As of 2010, 28.7% of the world’s population used Internet services (Internet World Stats, 2010b). The Internet is a massive, computer-linked network system used globally to access and convey information, either by personal or business computer users; it is also used for communication, research, entertainment, education and business transactions (Kraut, et al., 1998; Schneider, et al., 2006). Today, the Internet can link all online computers so that people can use it to communicate throughout the world (Schneider, et al., 2006).
Prevalence of IA.
The prevalence of IA has been examined in many countries among school student cohorts (see Table 2.1). IA has been reported at a wide range of rates, from a low of 1% in Greece (Tsitsika, et al., 2009) to a high of 36.7% in Italy (Milani, et al., 2009). Most research has reported a prevalence rate 10% or less, for example, 1.6% in South Korea (Kima et al., 2006), 2% in Norway (Johansson & Götestam, 2004), 2.4% in China (Cao & Su, 2006), 4% in South Korea (Lee, et al., 2007), 4.6% in Australia (Thomas & Martin, 2010), 6% in Poland (Zboralski, et al., 2009), and 7.1% in China (Lang, Jia, Li, & Su, 2008). However, a few studies have reported a high prevalence rate of IA among students, for example, 10.7% in South Korea (Park, Kim, & Cho, 2008), 10.8% in China (Lam, et al., 2009), 18.2% in Taiwan (Ko, et al., 2007), and 36.7% in Italy (Milani, et al., 2009).
The first study of IA was conducted by Young (1996), who reported that 79.88% of 496 general Internet users were classified as Internet dependents, using the 24 Diagnostic Questionnaire DQ via email and telephone survey. IA has increasingly been recognized as a potential problem since the introduction of the term by Goldberg in 1996 (Marshall, 1999). While different approaches to different addictions fill the literature, essentially the same ideas about addiction and many of the same behaviours are being described, whether it is substance dependence, pathological gambling, or technology addiction, (Horvath, 2004; McIlwraith, et al., 1991). IA has generally been defined as an inability to control the use of the Internet, causing psychological, social, family, school and work impairment (Davis, 2001; Young & Rogers, 1998).
However, the terminology or labels for IA are inconsistent in the literature. This study uses the term IA to encompass all the various terms used in the literature. As yet, there are no standard diagnostic criteria for IA agreed upon in the literature. Nevertheless, most researchers acknowledge the existence of IA. As Griffiths (1998) noted, “Excessive use of the Internet may not be problematic in most cases but the limited case study evidence suggests that for some individuals, excessive Internet use is a real addiction and of genuine concern” (p. 73).
Researchers have also tried to develop an accurate assessment tool in order to diagnose IA. For example, a well known assessment tool to classify IA was introduced by Young (1996) in the form of an eight-item Diagnostic Questionnaire (DQ) which was based on pathological gambling criteria. The DQ utilizes a set of yes/no questions regarding preoccupation with the Internet, the amount of time spent on the Internet, and the negative impacts of the Internet use. Since the introduction of Young’s instrument (Young, 1996), several other assessment tools have been developed.