By now, it’s clear that people can get addicted to the internet. If not careful, it can take hours out of one’s day. Internet addiction is defined as any online-related, compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one's work environment: classic symptoms of any kind of addiction.
The numbers are staggering: It is estimated that there are 4.93 billion cell-phone users in the world today, as well as 3.58 billion internet connections. Studies suggest that 1 in 8 Americans suffer from problematic Internet use. Those estimates are higher in China, Taiwan, and Korea where 30 percent or more of the population may experience problematic Internet use. The vast numbers of new internet users are coming up in underdeveloped countries, where land-line connections are few and far between.
What do people get addicted to on-line? Video games and on-line role playing are prominent, but most cases of internet addiction relates to sexting and on-line sex addiction. It is a recent phenomenon, headlined by prominent stories in the media, but none should be surprised when the next politician or prominent personality gets caught sexting or admits to online porn.
The greater concern is not the hard-core internet addict, but the casual internet user who find the practice eating away more and more of his or her time. A Globe and Mail story[i] (published March 21, 2017) reported that on average, English Canadians surveyed spent 24.5 hours online per week in 2016, up about two hours from the previous year. But, it recounted, young Canadians between the ages of 18 to 34 spent even more time on the Internet — an average of 34 hours per week in 2016, or nearly five hours per day.
Clearly, everyone needs to look at his or her internet usage, and come up with a plan to regulate and control their on-line usage.
Here is an example of a plan for electronic hygiene, which I developed over time. I was not addicted to the internet, but became concerned at the increasing amount of time spent on-line. I am sure more researched ones are available, but this one has worked for me.
1) Do not check the smart-phone upon going to bed nor upon waking up. Many people keep their smart phones on their bedroom nightstand, and this makes it too tempting to check social media at night or upon waking up. Best to charge the cell-phone at night in the kitchen or another room.
2) Do not check the internet the first thing in the morning. Waking up is time to get ready for the day: brushing teeth, showering, cooking and eating breakfast, etc. Only when the morning chores are done, should the internet be checked.
3) Examine the websites you visit. Most of them provide little or no educational, social or personal benefit. Wouldn’t you be better off avoiding them?
4) Make a schedule for the internet. What works for me is one hour in the mornings, say between ten to eleven, and one in the afternoon/evening. This takes discipline, but so does any type of hygiene.
5) Make one day of the week as an internet fasting day—no going online for the entire day. Sundays work for me: it is a day we end up doing family things.
6) If you have children, do not give them computers for their own rooms. Up until a certain age, they should use a family computer located in the living or dining room. And use parental control settings.
7) Finally, make sure certain activities such as dinners, or visits to friends, are kept electronic free.