Experts agree that internet overuse does not occur in a vacuum.
Often the problem becomes first apparent in the school setting.
"Parents might first notice slippage in school performance.
Though internet addiction is not yet a bona fide psychiatric diagnosis, psychiatrists and psychologists are calling for more research, so they can include it in future editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel (DSM), the bible and last word on diagnosis and disorders for therapists, hospitals, clinics, and insurers. Experts agree teens who struggle with internet overuse do not fit a single profile.
Take Melanie (not her real name), a sixteen-year-old Greenwich Village student, who spent up to seven hours a day updating her Face book page and instant messaging with friends.
Most stories about adolescents and the internet underscore the very real dangers of cyberbullies, sexual predators, and on-line scams that imperil unsuspecting, vulnerable teens. All of this access can be dangerous; those who abuse the internet can become trapped in a cyber riptide of sorts, pulled in further and further as their time on-line increases, their school performance declines, and their family and peer relationships begin to suffer.
"If you see a complementary diagnosis such as gambling, sex addiction, or a drug problem, it's time to make inquiries about time on the internet," says Dr. "Treat the drug, gambling, sexual compulsion, or eating disorder, and the internet problem usually remits." For all families, even those with limited financial resources: adolescents can post confidential questions and receive a response from a qualified professional within 24 hours for free at
Teen Central.net, a website operated by Kidspeace, a Pennsylvania treatment center for dually diagnosed adolescents. Experts agree that talking, limiting access, and seeking therapy can go a long way.
On the other end of the continuum are the isolated, socially anxious teens.