Moms and internet addiction

Internet AddictionOver on the Postcards from the Mothership blog, I found a recent article about mothers' risk of becoming addicted to the internet. Since a survey last year indicated that almost half of women would give up sex before giving up the internet, it seems clear that women are placing increasing value on their time spent online. As we wrote last week, internet addiction is being considered as a possible addition to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the diagnostic guide used by psychologists and psychiatrists. The internet and its widespread use is a relatively new phenomenon, research-wise. Much of the work that has been done has focused on men's addiction to videogames or online pornography. Researchers are only beginning to investigate the impact of social networks. Another relatively recent phenomenon is the increased use of laptops relative to desktops - you no longer need to remove yourself to an office in order to go online! The combination of ease of access and the proliferation of services such as Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr, along with the growth in the number of blogs, may have made the internet more appealing to busy moms.

Loneliness and depression are risk factors in the development of internet addiction. Put that together with the information in yesterday's post about post-partum depression, and it suggests that new moms are at an increased risk to become addicted to the internet. They can connect with adults in chat rooms and on Facebook or Twitter, they can order diapers and other necessities online, and they can escape from their depression. In an article on Health, Coleen Moore, the Resource Coordinator at the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery in Peoria, said that she's seeing more young women, often new parents, for the treatment of internet addiction. Moore said:

In addiction treatment, we talk about the fact that there's a void. Whatever that void may be -- whether it's emotional, spiritual, physical -- typically, we're trying to fill it.

So how does a busy mom who's concerned about her internet use go offline? One of the first steps in changing a behaviour is keeping track of it. As we said in our show about New Year's Resolutions, keeping a journal can almost immediately reduce unwanted behaviour. Track your computer use, and think about what you're not doing instead. The support of family and friends can also provide a welcome distraction from cyberspace; find a sitter and plan some outings! If you're really having difficulty limiting your internet time, many routers can be set to turn off the connection at certain times of the day - although it's easy to get around this, it provides a reminder that you're trying to curb your online behaviour. And remember, just because you spend some time online, it doesn't mean you're addicted; your journal can provide some helpful information in this regard.

If you have suggestions about how new parents can curb excessive internet use, leave us a comment.

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Note: Posts on Family Anatomy are for information only. If you need to talk to someone about family or mental health issues, you can get a referral from your family doctor.