People addicted to the internet are more likely to have problematic sexual interactions with strangers online and their addiction should be treated as a disorder, a South Australian expert has said.
Social Sciences lecturer and researcher Doctor Mubarak Rahamathulla, from Flinders University, said internet addiction was not being treated and was manifesting itself into online behaviour detrimental to real-life relationships.
He said people with pathological internet addiction were five times more likely to be involved in sexual activities with a stranger online.
“We argue that social networking sites offer a convenient platform where people can remain anonymous and get into problem behaviour so this study has found direct relationship between internet addictions and the problem behaviours of people in social networking sites,” he said.
Dr Rahamathulla has been researching general strain theory, which examines how negative life experiences can lead to problematic behaviours.
He said the process that led to pathological internet addiction needed closer examination, rather than blaming the internet itself.
He claimed his research showed they could feel victimised and compelled to engage in “a range of deviant behaviours in social networking sites to vent their emotional strains”.
“Classic internet addictive symptoms, similar to drug and alcohol addiction, include mood modification, preoccupation with and increased use of internet over time, possible withdrawal symptoms, conflict and relapse if internet use is restricted.”
He said private mobile messaging applications such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp were on the rise, meaning problematic activity could go “unhindered”.
Dr Rahamathulla said intervention and therapy could be developed sooner if internet addiction was clinically recognised.
“Definitely out there in our community people are suffering from this disorder silently,” he said.
“They are extremely frustrated and unhappy.
“The people suffering from internet addiction would be coming to them with various other symptoms but the direct contributing factor … or direct culprit could be internet addiction.”
This piece was first seen on ‘ABC News’ September 16 2017.