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Internet and technology addictions are what are referred to as behavioral addictions or process addictions, in that the person becomes addicted to the process of the habit and the rewards it offers.

The definition of digital addiction

Most definitions of digital addiction revolve around the following criteria:

A pleasure-inducing or anxiety-relieving behavior that involves…

  1. An excessive or compulsive use of the Internet, smartphones, gaming systems, or other digital technology.

  1. An inability to pare back use even when one wants to or despite the fact that their habit is consuming too much of their time.

  1. The habit is leading to negative consequences in other aspects of their life.

The blurry line between useful tool and addiction

The fact that a teen enjoys a particular behavior and spends a lot of time doing it does not automatically mean they are addicted. As Dana Boyd states, “Being ‘addicted’ to information and people is part of the human condition: it arises from a healthy desire to be aware of surroundings and to connect to society.” (Boyd, 2014, p. 92) And being drawn to enjoyable or pleasure-inducing behavior is hardly abnormal. It only becomes a problem when the technology starts to consume too much of their lives to the point of becoming an unhealthy obsession.

Likewise, the amount of time a child spends on social media or the Internet does not automatically constitute addiction. Many teens spend much more time on those activities than their parents would prefer, and this may be a separate issue, but it’s not necessarily an addiction.

Different types of digital addiction

There are several common forms of digital addiction:

  1. Internet addiction (including addictions to online pornography or chat rooms.)

  1. Video game addiction

  1. Smartphone addiction

When it comes to online addictions, the most common forms are addictions to online games, chat rooms, and social media. (Guan & Subrahmanyam, 2009)

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