PROTECTION OF CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE FROM PROBLEMATIC INTERNET USAGE

Although Internet use is usually beneficial and advantageous for most people (Howard, Wilding & Guest, 2016; Heo et al. 2015; Roy & Ferguson, 2016; Wiederhold, 2017), increased availability and high penetration rates across the globe can facilitate the emergence of excessive and addictive behaviors related to Internet use. Furthermore, many people appear to display impulsive, narcissistic and aggressive personalities online which can be nurtured by various Internet technologies (Aboujaoude, 2017). Internet addiction has been defined as “excessive or poorly controlled preoccupations, urges or behaviours regarding computer use and Internet access that lead to impairment or distress” (Weinstein & Lejoyeux, 2010, p277). Studies have systematically shown that excessive use of the Internet can lead to Internet addiction (Durkee et al. 2012; Pontes & Griffiths, 2016a; Pontes & Griffiths, 2017; Lortie & Guitton, 2013), which comprises a heterogeneous spectrum of Internet-related activities with a potential to cause problems for the individual, such as gaming, shopping, gambling, or social networking.

When properly used, Internet is an important technology that provides people with vital skills for the 21st century such as information access, problem solving, and self-directed learning. However, when Internet is used unconsciously, it can cause anxiety or fear and negatively affect personal development (Colwell & Kato, 2003; Kerberg, 2005). In addition, excessive use of Internet may have detrimental effects on biological, physiological, psychological and social development of the user (Caplan, 2002). In this context, Internet addiction has gradually become a serious problem. Thus, although it was not mentioned in the previous editions, American Psychiatric Association (APA) has added Internet addiction, with a particular reference to online gambling, as a mental illness to the fifth edition of the Handbook of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

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