Online video screens are kind of like windows – as glass rectangles we look through to see the world outside. However, internet screens are not like windows overlooking calming vistas but are more like windows on a fast-moving train. The scenes can change from serene to jarring at a moment’s notice.
Furthermore, online viewers can engage in limitless information, activities and games. Sometimes the hours go by, the days go by, and the engagement becomes compulsive. This behavior is sometimes described as internet addiction.
While excessive internet use has not been recognized as a disorder by the World Health Organization or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), discussion of these conditions and use of the term Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) abounds. Many of us are faced with keeping our online habits in check.
Adding it up
So, just how much time do we spend online?
The Digital 2019 report by HootSuite and We Are Social reports consumers in the U.S. are online an average of 6 hours and 31 minutes each day.
Secondly, how much time is too much time?
The short answer is that it depends on how that time is being spent and how it relates to a person’s overall lifestyle balance. This where it gets extremely complicated because for the most part our sources for learning, work, entertainment and recreation are together in one place – on the internet.
Compulsivity and addiction
Compulsive behavior can be identified when someone is always looking forward to getting back online, as well as being online constantly. Being compulsive is not uncommon in various ways and can often be corrected with habit improvement efforts.
With substance use disorders, addictive behaviors include a condition when a person gives up or significantly reduces social, occupational or recreational activities due of substance use. Likewise, it’s easy to see how this parallel to the word “addiction” can be made when a person’s lifestyle and responsibilities unravel due to an excessive amount of time spent on the internet.
Setting limits is a key component to improving habits. As parents, this might involve technically limiting the capability of computers for children in the home or having the internet connection shut down at specified times. For adults, better habits simply involve a self-accountability effort.
To get a grip on level of use, it may help to:
- Track the amount of time you are online.
- Schedule the times of day when you are online and off.
- Take a digital detox break now and then. Have a friend unplug with you.
- Don’t use your smartphone when you are lying in bed.
- Just “let go” in general. Release the urge to keep up with all email and posts instantaneously.
Join us for a webcast to learn more
Community Reach Therapist Benjamin Dungan will present “How to Develop Healthy Internet Habits,” online at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27. He will be be available to answer questions from viewers after the presentation. To sign up, please visit the Community Reach Center Facebook link or register to participate via Zoom.
Dungan will explore recent statistics, neurological impacts of internet use, physical and sleep impacts, mental health impacts and signs of problematic use. He will cover how to use internet technology in healthy ways, and he will provide sources to look to if you or a loved one needs to consider professional help. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has experience working with children and adults in a variety of therapy, hospital, community and school settings. He developed an interest in helping those with addictions such as substances, food and technology.
Remember the presentation is free. Please join us.
Always here for you
If you want to speak to someone about mental health, please reach out to us at Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in north metro Denver, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call the free Warm Line at 303-280-6602. Also, remember the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours. Call 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255.