Editorial Perspective: Missing the forest for the trees - how the focus on digital addiction and gaming diverted attention away from wider online risks. Child and adolescent mental health Aboujaoude, E., Gega, L. 2021


Despite the many ways in which Internet-related technologies can affect psychology, research into the Internet's mental health consequences has disproportionately focussed on the narrow topics of online addiction and the closely related Internet gaming disorder. Over two decades into the online revolution, the Internet is being blamed for dramatic transformations, including a rise in extremism, social polarization and weakened democracies. In trying to understand how these shifts could have happened, or how they might be contained, society looks to mental health experts - after all, it is the interaction between technology and human psychology that is encouraging certain behaviours online and discouraging others. The field, however, has precious little to offer by way of explanations. To no small degree, this is due to the tendency to approach online psychological problems primarily through the addiction framework. The result has been to blind us to other important traits and phenomena that are playing out online and on social media, including impulsivity, aggression, inattention, narcissism and the psychological meaning of living in a postprivacy world. The article covers historical aspects of how the addiction model came to dominate the field; some insufficiently heeded early warning signals about other online ills and the big price society is paying today for this approach. We end with a call for a significant broadening of the focus of research when it comes to online psychopathology.

View details for DOI 10.1111/camh.12503

View details for PubMedID 34448531