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Section 7
Compulsive Internet Use

Question 7 | Test | Table of Contents

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In the last section, we discussed concepts regarding children who become addicted to the internet.  These concepts included:  susceptible clients; warning signs; and acceptance.

In this section, we will examine factors related to partners of clients with problematic internet use. 
These concepts include:  cyberaffairs; enabling; and asserting independence.

3 Factors Related to Partners of Clients with Problematic Internet Use

♦ Factor #1 - Cyberaffairs

The first factor is cyberaffairs.  These are flirtations and sometimes graphic cybersex that an addicted teen might engage in.  Often, clients believe that their initial flirtations are harmless, but to parents just learning of their teen's problematic internet use, it can be quite a shock.  John, age 13, met Janice in a teen chat room. 

He stated, "I never thought it would get as far as it did.  It was just some flirting, it wasn't hurting anyone.  After a while, it escalated quickly, and she sent me photos of herself.  Stupidly, I saved these on the computer and my mom found them.  I honestly think that if she hadn’t had stopped me, I might have arranged a meeting with this girl."  Gina, his mom, stated, "I never thought John was capable of this.  He's still such a boy in many ways.  I guess I never really understood the internet, come to that." 

I explained to Gina, "In these cases, it’s actually easier for a person to commit a cyberaffair than have an actual sexual encounter, especially at John's age when girls are much less receptive.  The informal atmosphere and lack of physical restraints lure a person into seemingly harmless flirtations, but as John noted, these get out of hand quickly."  Think of your John.  Was he lured by the informality of the chat rooms?

♦ Factor #2 - Enabling
The second factor is enabling.  Many clients and their parents are familiar with the word "enabling" due to its associations with other problems such as drug and alcohol problems.  Parents of problematic internet use clients often assume the role of enabler without knowing it.  Believing they are being nurturing and kind, they unknowingly encourage the addictive behavior. 

John’s mom Gina had become an enabler without knowing it.  She stated, "I started bringing him dinner on a tray.  Maybe he needed all this time to get to know how the computer worked, and, anyway, I assumed he was still doing things to improve his grades.  Or this was a new hobby and he’d soon lose interest." 

I stated to Gina, "Because your son had begun to ignore you, you must have felt a drop in self-esteem.  Is that right?  You made excuses for him that were not justified, but you felt powerless to change his behavior."  I asked Gina to become more assertive in letting John know his boundaries.  Think of your Gina.  How has he or she become an enabler?  How would you address this?

♦ Factor #3 - Asserting Independence
In addition to cyberaffairs and enabling, the third factor is asserting independence.  Often, internet addicted teens turn to the computer and adult chat rooms to assert their own independence in the outside world.  They feel as though they are test-driving their own boundaries. 

John stated, "I love my mom, but she was absolutely stifling me!  She kept treating me like a child that still needed rain boots to go out in the sun!  Janice never treated me like a kid." Gina stated, "I didn't understand John's behavior at first.  He didn't want to talk to me at all.  We'd always been close, because John has never had a father.  I just thought I would be a part of his life for much longer than I have been.  I think I might be afraid of being alone." 

I stated, "John is really a normal teen testing the waters of the real world.  He wants to feel independent of you, but at the same time still wishes that you would set boundaries.  It's a strange balance between trust and leniency.  If you try and restrain his internet behavior too much, he may just turn to other more destructive habits.  However, without some restraint, he  might continue his behavior and nothing will ever change." 

Think of your John and Gina.  Is John using the internet as a means to assert his or her independence?

In this section, we discussed concepts related to partners of clients with problematic internet use.  These concepts included:  cyberaffairs; enabling; and asserting independence.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Acuff, S. F., Pilatti, A., Collins, M., Hides, L., Thingujam, N. S., Chai, W. J., Yap, W. M., Shuai, R., Hogarth, L., Bravo, A. J., & Murphy, J. G. (2021). Reinforcer pathology of internet-related behaviors among college students: Data from six countries. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology. Advance online publication.

Donald, J. N., Ciarrochi, J., & Sahdra, B. K. (2020). The consequences of compulsion: A 4-year longitudinal study of compulsive internet use and emotion regulation difficulties. Emotion. Advance online publication.

Grubbs, J. B., Stauner, N., Exline, J. J., Pargament, K. I., & Lindberg, M. J. (2015). Perceived addiction to Internet pornography and psychological distress: Examining relationships concurrently and over time. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 29(4), 1056–1067.

What are three concepts related to partners of clients with problematic internet use? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

Section 8
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