Diagnosing internet addiction is complex. Unlike drug and alcohol dependency, the internet and other technologies offer myriad benefits to the user and society.
Clinicians, counselors and parents who want to learn about the impact of the internet on someone now have a new screening tool at their disposal. Internet addiction expert and licensed psychologist Dr. Kimberly Young has developed three standardized tests that can be used to screen internet addiction.
Describing the tests as “the first tool of its kind,” Young said the questionnaires are the next evolution of her more than two decades of research on internet and technology addiction.
Young, who is director of the university’s Strategic Leadership master’s degree program and professor of communication in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University, created the manuals and test instruments with normative data. The tests are being distributed by Stoelting, a leading manufacturer and distributor of scientific research equipment.
“This is exciting to me as they have the ability to widely promote the tests at trade shows for psychologists, social workers, addiction counselors, school counselors, and the like,” Young said.
While some continue to debate whether internet addiction is a real disorder, medical, psychological and psychiatric clinicians have been eager for standardized tools to diagnose and treat the behaviorial problems they see.
The 20-item Internet Addiction Test developed by Young is a questionnaire that measures characteristics and behaviors associated with uncontrollable use of the internet, including compulsivity, escapism and dependency. Questions also assess problems related to personal, occupational and social functioning stemming from internet use.
Examples of the questions include: How often does your job performance or productivity suffer because of the internet? How often do you try to hide how long you’ve been online?
The Internet Addiction Test has been translated into several languages including Chinese, French, Italian, Turkish and Korean.
Young has also developed a manual for families designed with parents in mind. The Internet Addiction Test for Families includes a test for adolescents as well as a checklist to review problematic and risky media use by younger children.
The Parent-Child Internet Addiction Test measures the impact of internet addiction on children and adolescents age 12 to 18 and can be used by practitioners and parents as an early detection of risky behaviors. The Problematic and Risky Media Use in Children Checklist assesses how children ages 3 to 11 are using technology and devices.
The parent-child test was developed to assess a child’s online use from a parent’s perspective. Adolescents often lack awareness of their own behavior, and raising parents’ awareness about their children’s internet behavior can help them reflect on their own use.
In 1995, Young first identified addictive use of the internet as a distinct psychological disorder by using comprehensive case studies of internet users. Since then, research by Young and others has classified various ways that internet addiction negatively impacts users’ lives: social isolation and depression, relationship difficulties, academic failure, and work-related problems.
In addition to running the Center for Internet Addiction she founded in 1995, Young has published numerous articles and books on the topic. She travels internationally to share her research and collaborate with other scholars and practitioners.
To learn more about Young’s research and the Center for Internet Addiction, visit netaddiction.com.
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