Internet addiction: Costly to employers

Surfing the net, chatting with friends around the world – friends you might never have met if not for the Internet, Facebook and other social media, is a lot of fun. You’ll even see or hear people admit they are addicted to it. But, like anything else of an entertaining nature, too much can cause a lot of trouble.

“Problematic computer use is a growing social issue which is being debated worldwide,” advises the National Institutes of Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) ruins lives by causing neurological complications, psychological disturbances and social problems.”

It doesn’t affect only a person’s personal life. It is a growing problem in the workplace, costing employers in lower productivity and in dollar and cents expenses to protect their businesses from hacking, and protecting trade secrets and vital system information at risk.

Employees start searching the Internet for information related to their work, and often end up somewhere they shouldn’t be on company time. And everyone familiar with Internet knows you can become so involved with it that you lose track of time. It can be a huge time waster.

Internet addiction in the workplace may involve cyber sex or porn, social media and relationship abuse, online gambling, gaming, shopping, stock trading and travel booking. Also to be considered are the effects of the problem in the long term: poor quality and poor customer service that leads to negative effects on your brand image and damage to the reputation of your business.

Educating employees about the dynamics of addiction can help them understand how they may be using the Internet as a tonic to cope with missing or unfulfilled needs that arise from unpleasant feelings or situations in their lives,” writes Kimberly S. Young, Ph.D., in her article, “Internet Addiction in the Workplace,” featured in this summer’s edition of Paradigm magazine. “Used in this manner, the Internet serves to block out sensations of pain, uncertainty or discomfort that distract from a person’s focus and absorb his or her attention.

Dr. Young has been writing about Internet addiction for 20 years or more. She says that training brings awareness to the problem so employees learn how to recognize and break the patterns of unhealthy online behavior.

All addictions, whether chemical or behavioral, share certain characteristics including being particularly noticeable or important, compulsive, mood changing, and easing the distress, tolerance and withdrawal associated with addiction, and continuing the behavior even though it is bad for the person, Dr. Young states. It involves self-control.

Self-control is being able to control your behavior, emotions and thoughts when you are tempted to do something or make impulsive choices. It can apply to a lot of things, including substance abuse or Internet addiction.

An article in Forbes Magazine, “Six Secrets of Self Control,” by Travis Bradberry, says that self-control is “a key component of emotional intelligence.” The six secrets are: meditation which improves emotional intelligence; eating something that takes time for your body to burn, like whole grain rice or meat; exercise for 10 minutes or so instead of reaching for a sweet snack; sleep, getting plenty of rest to maintain your glucose level; wait 10 minutes or so to see if the desire for that snack goes away and forgive yourself and move on.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded, in part, by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.

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