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An Expert on Internet Addiction in Korea and the US

April 08, 2009 _ 14:10 / Digital Nation Team / comments (0)

Recently, we did our first interview via webcam for this project. We wanted to try it a) for financial reasons-- it's expensive to fly our producing team and crew all the way across the country for one interview-- and b) because we thought it would be cool.

Our correspondent, Doug Rushkoff, conducted the interview. There were a few minor frustrations when we lost contact with our interview subject, Dr. Jerald Block (screenname: "Monkeyman"), which you'll see in the video posted here.

Dr. Block is one of the foremost psychiatrists in the country treating problematic overuse of the computer. Some refer to this as Internet addiction -- which we looked at in South Korea, where the problem has been referred to as a public health crisis. Dr. Block prefers to call the condition pathological computer use.

He explained that overuse of the computer always presents hand in hand with other psychological disorders, like depression, anxiety or obsessive compulsive tendencies. This linkage is called co-morbidity.

Because the computer provides a profound relationship for a person, it's all the more difficult to pull the cord in treatment.

Dr. Block has been at the center of a debate about whether to include pathological computer use in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The updated version will be released in 2012.

Whether or not too much computer use will eventually be categorized as a disorder, the computer and video games have already been blamed for high profile acts of violence in the past. Dr. Block explains his own theory on how video games played in to what happened at Columbine in 1999.

And it was then, about midway through the interview, when we lost contact with Dr. Block. Here's how that went, and how we responded.

Finally we got back online with Dr. Block, and we continued the interview with a discussion about Korea, where we visited an internet rescue camp for addicted teens last fall.

What does it all add up to back here in the states, where we haven't yet declared a public health crisis?

There have always been new technologies that breed skepticism and fear as they integrate into the culture: we're curious what's different this time around. Dr. Block tells us why he thinks this online revolution and its ramifications are unlike any that have come before.

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posted February 2, 2010

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