In Chapter 3, we get an explanation of how pleasurable activities cause the release of dopamine. Dopamine creates a sense of pleasure and well-being that the anterior cingulate, the part of our brain that controls decision making and reason, is challenged to subdue. For some, the desire for that sense of pleasure overwhelms our ability to think rationally or take charge of our lives. Dr. Small offers a rubric for detecting internet addiction disorder then goes on to describe how people become addicted to email, virtual gaming, online porn, gambling and online shopping.
The digital addiction pattern is no different than addictions we have long known about. Addictions are about avoiding some part of reality. The difference is that you can get more of it faster (email), access it easier (porn) and spend it quicker (gambling and online shopping) with an anonymity that makes detection and intervention less likely.
This chapter ends with the promise of more input to help you determine whether you suffer an addiction or perhaps just spend to much time on the internet.
I know from personal experience and observations of students that the allure of the internet, or the applications on the internet, can be difficult to overcome. I feel that one of our many jobs as teachers is to help develop the motivation that keeps students on task because, internet or not, we humans seem to find a way to distract ourselves from what we should be doing.
On the other hand, addiction is a strong word. I know people that are addicted to various things and I have not witnessed internet use that rises to that level. Perhaps I am naive, but I found this chapter to be somewhat alarmist. In addition, I found the author's reference to newspaper articles and other non-peer reviewed sources less than convincing. This chapter is full of these references.
Here is one example from his notes:
In China, where an estimated two million youths are addicted to the Internet, a boot camp for Web addicts has successfully treated thousands. Chinese boot camps tackle Internet addiction. International Herald Tribune. March 12, 2007, www.iht.com/articles/2007/03/12/business/addicts.php.
My takeaway idea is this. I know this book is about balance. So how can we use the students' desire to avoid reality (that is the heart of addiction) to attract students to learning?