Is it really a problem?
The US could be rife with "internet addicts" who are as clinically ill as alcoholics, according to psychiatrists involved in a nationwide study.
The study, carried out by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine in California, US, indicates that more than one in eight US residents show signs of "problematic internet use".
The Stanford researchers interviewed 2513 adults in a nationwide survey. Because internet addiction is not a clinically defined medical condition, the questions used were based on analysis of other addiction disorders.
Most disturbing, according to the study's lead author Elias Aboujaoude, is the discovery that some people hide their internet surfing, or go online to cure foul moods – behaviour that mirrors the way alcoholics behave.
"In a sense, they're using the internet to self-medicate," Aboujaoude says. "And, obviously, something is wrong when people go out of their way to hide their internet activity."
A typical addict is a single, white college-educated male in his 30s, who spends more than 30 hours a week on "non-essential" computer use.