Dossier: Digital life

What is online addiction?

Online addiction is a popular buzzword today. We wanted to find out how you know if you’re an online addict.

Text: Barbara Lukesch

Franz Eidenbenz, a psychologist specialising in new media, diagnoses online addiction in his patients when:

  • They lose control of their online behaviour.
  • They continue these consumption patterns despite the obviously negative impact they have on their school
    grades or performance at work. 
  • At the same time, they neglect their social contacts and lose touch with family, friends and acquaintances.

"The time spent online isn't an indication of addiction in itself", explains Eidenbenz, head of treatment at the Zentrum für Spielsucht und andere Verhaltenssüchte, RADIX, in Zurich (centre for gambling and other behavioural addictions, Of course, the internet is valuable and useful for many purposes, such as researching, writing and communicating. "Consumption only becomes a problem if it overtakes the rest of your life, when being online is more important than anything else."

“Digital abstinence is no longer an option.”
Franz Eidenbenz

A problem? Not me!

In Switzerland, 7.4% of 12 to 19 year olds are addicted to the internet. Young males are most at risk of developing an addiction. Many of his patients didn’t think they had a problem. That’s why it’s very important to involve family members, the school or an employer if the therapy is to be successful.

To help those affected, Eidenbenz examines their daily use and shows them how to control it. He also explores alternative leisure activities with them and tries out new forms of conflict management.

“If you make smart use of new media and control your consumption, they don’t make you stupid or get you addicted.”
Franz Eidenbenz

"As almost all jobs require digital know-how today, digital abstinence is no longer an option," says Eidenbenz. "If you make smart use of new media and control your consumption, they don’t make you stupid or get you addicted."