It has been hailed as perhaps the most important invention of the 20th century. The Internet has revolutionized the information and communication flow of people, changing the way we interact with others, gather and disseminate information, do business, express and entertain ourselves. Yet, for all its benefits, the Internet has also been identified as an accessory to issues including extra-marital affairs, pornography, and gambling. There also appears to be a growing concern, especially in Asia, for what has been labeled “Internet addiction.”
In particular, certain Asian countries report it as a serious public health issue. Liu Guiming, deputy secretary-general of the Chinese Society of Juvenile Delinquency Research, has been quoted as saying "the growing number of youth infatuated with unhealthy Web sites and campus violence has become an urgent social problem.” A leading Beijing judge, Shan Xiuyun, also declared that 90 per cent of juvenile crime in the city was Internet-related” (Sebag-Montefiore, 2005).As a result of these concerns, governments in South Korea, Japan and China have set up boot camps, which provide therapy to deal with Internet addiction (Ransom, 2007). China has also issued a ban on new Internet cafes to clamp down on Internet addiction (Watts, 2007).
Yet, there are those who doubt whether this outcry is justified or even valid. An article in the American Psychological Association newsletter suggests that there is little empirical evidence to support the existence of Internet addiction and much of the research in this area utilizes self-selecting samples with no control groups (De Angelis, 2000).
In light of this controversy, his paper seeks to examine Internet addiction in Asia. Specifically, it reviews the academic and empirical literature to address the following questions: *
What empirical evidence is there in Asia related to “Internet addiction”? *
What actions have been taken to curb “Internet addiction” and what have been the consequences of these interventions? *
What other areas of research or research questions need to be addressed to better understand Internet addiction in Asia?
In order to better understand the answers to the above questions, this paper will begin with an overview of Internet addiction from a theoretical and methodological perspective. It will then present findings on evidence for and treatment of Internet addiction in Asia. Finally, it will highlight gaps in the research and suggest future areas for research focus.
Internet Addiction Defined
There have been numerous definitions for Internet addiction during the past decade. Widyanto and Griffiths (2006) present the most general definition of this construct as being a subset of a technological addiction, which is defined as a non-chemical or behavioral addiction that involves human-machine interaction. These addictions can either be passive, such as viewing television, or active, such as playing computer games (Widyanto and Griffiths, 2006). More specific definitions of Internet addiction include: *
An individual’s inability to control his/her use of the Internet, which eventually causes psychological, social, school, and/or work difficulties in a person’s life. (Davis, 2001; Shapira et al., 2000; Young,1998) *
A psychological dependence on the Internet characterized by an increasing investment of resources on Internet-related activities, unpleasant feelings when off-line, an increasing tolerance to the effects of being online, and denial of the problematic behaviors (Kandell, 1998)
It should also be noted that there are many terms used to describe excessive Internet use: problematic Internet use, pathological Internet use, excessive Internet use, compulsive Internet, computer addiction, Internetomania (Shapira et al., 2003; Widyanto and Griffiths, 2006). The variety in the names and definitions for excessive Internet use present in the literature reflect the...
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