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Are You Addicted To The Internet? Take This Test To Find Out

Anupam Nath
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Facebook: It’s the first thing I look at when I wake up, and the last thing I look at before going to bed.

Which begs the question: Am I addicted to Facebook? Or is it just a harmless pastime?

I went to talk to an expert, Dr. Megan Moreno at Seattle Children’s Hospital. She’s the principal investigator of the Social Media and Adolescent Research Team (SMART), which studies problematic Internet usage.

Moreno sat me down and gave me a test. The questions are a serious diagnostic tool that doctors use to determine whether adolescents are addicted to the Internet.

The test has 18 questions in all, and you can take it, too:

I should note that the research targets adolescents, which, medically speaking, stretches up to age 25. So Moreno’s findings aren’t an exact fit for adults.

For one, says Moreno, adults have a complete frontal lobe, so “they can possibly have a little more control.” And there’s also the natural generation gap.

“They grew up in a time period that didn’t have access to these wonderful toys. So they know what it’s like to take a whole weekend and not go online, whereas for an adolescent today, it’s possible that in most of their memory, they’ve never had a weekend where they didn’t have Internet access,” Moreno said.

But Moreno isn't too concerned about how often adolescents log on. Instead, her focus is on whether Internet usage is getting in the way of real-world responsibilities. That, she says, is the real sign of trouble. 

Treating Problematic Internet Usage

Some researchers liken treating Internet addiction to treating an eating disorder, says Moreno. Someone with an eating disorder can’t quit food. Likewise, someone who’s addicted to the Internet can’t just quit the whole thing for good.

“How do we change someone’s relationship with this substance so that they’re able to use it for sustenance but they’re able to repair that unhealthy relationship?” Moreno said.

To treat the problem, Moreno says researchers take the B.B.C. approach. The letters stand for balance, boundaries and communication:

Balance: Are you maintaining healthy in-person relationships and fulfilling obligations?

Boundaries: What are you sharing online? Would your grandmother be proud of it?

Communication: Are parents talking to their kids about what they’re seeing and doing online? How are what they’re seeing and doing online translating into the real world?

As for my own Internet usage, it turns out I’m fine.

“Even though you’re logging on to Facebook multiple times a day, it sounds like your relationship with that is not affecting your work, your other relationships offline or being able to get your daily jobs done,” she said.

Phew. What a relief.

Editor’s Note: This story originally ran as part of our new show, “Sound Effect,” which airs on Saturdays at 10 a.m.  

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.