When taking care of patients, psychiatrists and other behavioral health professionals, are often confronted with a lack of available resources. This is even more of a challenge when treating poorly understood or new disorders. Internet addiction is an under recognized disorder emerging on the mental health scene. Currently the disorder is not formally recognized in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) used by behavioral health professionals for diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, there are is a scarcity of resources available to patients and providers to address it. Fortunately, on his website, Ask the Mediatrician (www.askthemediatrician.com) , Dr. Michael Rich , Director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health, offers parents and those who work with children and adolescents one more weapon in the battle against internet addiction.
Askthemediatrician.com is the blog written by Dr. Rich, a pediatrician and formerHollywoodfilm producer. In his blog, he brings his expertise from both worlds to address concerns that parents, health care providers, teachers and others involved in children’s care, have about the effects of media use in a child or adolescents life. His blog answers questions and discusses important and difficult topics on various aspects of media use.
On Dr. Rich’s blog, you will also find a link to website for the Center on Media and Child Health (www.cmch.tv) at Children’s Hospital Boston. This website provides tools for parents and professionals on dealing with issues regarding appropriate and inappropriate media use.
So what is all the fuss about?
Although internet addiction is not a recognized disorder, Dr. Rich and many providers recognize that excessive screen time use is a real problem for many children and adolescents. In a recent article in Clinical Psychiatric News (02/15/2012), Dr. Rich says that internet addiction shares four common elements with other types of addictions including:
- Excessive use that impedes other aspects of life,
- Increasing tolerance in order to obtain the “high,”
- Withdrawal symptoms, and,
- A willingness to sustain negative consequences in order to maintain the habit.
As with any addiction, internet addiction can have significant negative consequences in a child’s or adolescent’s life. These negative consequences often impact a child’s or an adolescent’s school performance, social interactions and family functioning.
In today’s world, internet use is a normal part of a child’s and adolescent’s life. They use the internet to form or develop social connections, for entertainment and even for school related activities. Therefore, parents should monitor their child or adolescent so that they can use the internet in a healthy and responsible way.
Askthemediatrician.com and the Center on Media and Child Health are two resources that can help guide parents and professionals who are seeking help in shaping healthy media use as well as dealing with problematic media use.
Tracy Asamoah, M.D.
Dr. Asamoah provides psychiatry services for children, adolescents and teens at Lone Star Circle of Care's Round Rock Behavioral Health location.