Internet Addiction & Cyberstalking Definitions
What is Internet Addiction?
As author of the Information Age Forensic construct, iPredator, this writer continues to investigate the etiology and underpinnings of Internet Addiction. The debate as to whether the compulsive usage of Information and Communications Technology [ICT] is an actual addiction or not, continues to be highly controversial within the medical and behavioral healthcare realms. Although I understand the rationale for these disputes, I have concluded that the disorders of Internet Use Disorder and Internet Use Gaming Disorder are true addictions. I also strongly believe these forms of online maladaptive dysfunction will continue to spread within the pediatric demographic and all online users.
In my regular online activities engaging with the social networking community, I am exposed to the vast array of beliefs from both professionals and lay community online users. In regards to Internet Addiction, recently I was written to by an unknown online user after I had posted my images defining Internet Abuse and Internet Dependence. Stating he was from the medical field, he proceeded to write that he and his fellow medical colleagues become “peeved” when people use the term Internet Addiction when describing what he believes is nothing more than a form of psychopathology. Respectfully, below is my pasted reply to his initiate.
I offer this pasted information, not to incite the commenter, but to illustrate how I believe Internet Addiction is the 21st century compulsive dependency that will reach epidemic levels if not addressed. pasted below is the writer’s response to the commenter followed by this writer’s iPredator definition, Internet Abuse and Internet Dependence Definitions. They are as follows:
Writer’s Internet Addiction Comment Response
Thank you for writing. I am always open to debate in clarification in my constructs. Although my doctoral degree is in psychology, my dissertation was Triggering Events in Adult Substance Abusers. I also maintained certification as an alcohol/drug counselor for 12 years and worked in all forms of alcohol/substance abuse treatment for 15 years until I completed my graduate work. At one time, I would have agreed with your statement 150%.
Respectfully, and no disrespect to your medical profession or my own behavioral healthcare profession of MD psychiatrists and Ph.D./Psy.D. Psychologists, but the vast majority of my colleagues, at one time, concluded behavioral addictions [i.e. gambling, sexual addiction, etc.] were not the same as physiological addiction [i.e., alcohol, cocaine, opiates, etc.]. I, as well, was one of those folks who subscribed to the notion that true addiction was, as you write, required “ and withdrawal, characterized by measurable, physical symptoms.” Like you, I too at one time, viewed what is called, behavioral addiction, as nothing more than a compulsive dependency rooted in psychopathology.
My time spent in forensics and increasingly working more with forensic pathologists, neurologists and speaking with folks suffering from compulsive dependency to the internet, led me to conclude that in fact there is what has been termed Internet Addiction.
As I’m sure you are aware, the internet is a mere 3 decades old at most and few longitudinal studies and cross-sectional research has been conducted regarding what have been coined Internet Use Disorder and Internet Use Gaming Disorder. As of 2014, my ongoing research and online forensic themed involvement continues to support my belief that there is Internet Addiction. Just as all behavioral addictions, the one hallmark you mention, Tolerance, is still the controversial symptom causing the greatest debate.
In a nutshell, 5-7 years ago, the thought of Internet Addiction was viewed as preposterous. 3-5 years ago, Internet Addiction was viewed as nothing more than a compulsive dependency. Today, it is a 50/50 split with half of all MD’s/Ph.D.’s supporting the idea of Internet Addiction and half continuing to view it as a behavioral dysfunction. Based on the trajectory and rapid growth of information technology, I would bet the next ICD-10 and DSM-5 revised editions would officially recognize Internet Addiction. From a lay person’s standpoint, my experience has been that 80-90% of the online user world views compulsive internet use as an addiction. Given that, the checklist I created is for the lay community [i.e. parents, educators, non-academics, etc.] I thought it best to define the checklist as the Internet Addiction Risk Checklist. Thank you for your response and please note I certainly respect your input.
But I must say that today here in the United States, just as many MD’s as Ph.D.’s now use the term Internet Addiction. You are always welcomed to call me as well if you would like to further discuss this area. I can be reached anytime at 347-871-2416 and email is firstname.lastname@example.org
- Michael Nuccitelli, Psy.D.
- NYS Licensed Psychologist
- CEO, iPredator Inc.
Internet Abuse Definition
Internet Abuse: Internet Abuse (aka Internet Addiction & Internet Use Gaming Disorder) is an umbrella concept defining a child or adult’s compulsive and progressive abuse of the internet and electronic devices designed to obtain, exchange or disseminate information. Although the internet is the predominate arena in which Internet Abuse takes place, electronic devices and communications channels not internet enabled are also included in the definition.
Internet Abuse causes dysfunctional cognitive, affective, behavioral & perceptual intrapersonal consequences accompanied with employment, academic, familial, peer & intimate partner interpersonal consequences. On a continuum of severity, ranging from absent to mild, cessation of Internet and/or electronic device usage causes withdrawal symptomology, psychological and/or physiological, combined with perceptual tolerance. Also on a continuum of severity, Internet Abusive online users engage in criminal, deviant and/or deceptive online activities ranging from absent to severe.
The chronic and more debilitating condition, Internet Dependence, is more chronic, severe and self-destructive. Internet Abuse is segmented into six typologies as follows: Cyber Sex Fixated, Cyber Relationship Fixated, Internet Gaming & Online Commerce Fixated, Information Implosion Fixated, Dark Side Fixated and NOS (Not Otherwise Specified) Fixated. The NOS Fixated typology applies to internet abusing online users who share more than one typology, has a co-existing mental illness or medical condition causing psychiatric dysfunction.
Internet Dependence Definition
Internet Dependence: Internet Dependence (aka Internet Addiction & Internet Use Gaming Disorder) is an umbrella concept defining a child or adult’s compulsive and progressive dependency upon the internet and electronic devices designed to obtain, exchange or disseminate information. Although the internet is the predominate arena in which Internet Dependence takes place, electronic devices and communications channels not internet enabled are also included in the definition. Internet Dependence causes dysfunctional cognitive, affective, behavioral & perceptual intrapersonal consequences accompanied with employment, academic, familial, peer & intimate partner interpersonal consequences.
On a continuum of severity, ranging from mild to severe, cessation of Internet and/or electronic device usage causes, psychological and/or physiological, combined with perceptual tolerance. Also on a continuum of severity, Internet Dependent online users engage in criminal, deviant and/or deceptive online activities ranging from mild to severe.
The mild and less debilitating condition, Internet Abuse, is not as chronic, severe or self- destructive. Internet Dependence is segmented into six typologies as follows: Cyber Sex Fixated, Cyber Relationship Fixated, Internet Gaming & Online Commerce Fixated, Information Implosion Fixated, Dark Side Fixated and NOS (Not Otherwise Specified) Fixated. The NOS Fixated typology applies to internet dependent online users who share more than one typology, has a co-existing mental illness or medical condition causing psychiatric dysfunction.
Cyberstalking is the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to stalk, control, manipulate, threaten or make unwanted advances towards a child, adult, business or group. Cyberstalking is both a tactic used by an ICT assailant [aka, iPredator] and typology of psychopathological ICT user. Cyberstalking tactics include false accusations, threats of physical harm, habitual monitoring, surveillance, implied threats, identity theft, damage to property and gathering information to manipulate and control their target. To meet the criteria of cyberstalking, the information and tactics used must involve a direct, indirect or implied physical and psychological threat to the target. An example of physical threat involves bodily harm to the target or their loved ones via ICT.
Examples of psychological threats include habitual disparagement, humiliation and disinformation dissemination to the target’s reputation, credibility or financial status if the target does not acquiesce to the cyberstalker’s demands. Cyberspace is an abstract global medium, regardless of frontiers, creating new possibilities for this growing class of online assailant. The internet is inexpensive and easy to access and geographic distance between cyberstalkers and their targets are no longer a confounding factor. Cyberstalking is both a strategy to target online users and a psychiatric pathology.
iPredator: A person, group or nation who, directly or indirectly, engages in exploitation, victimization, coercion, stalking, theft or disparagement of others using Information and Communications Technology (ICT). iPredators are driven by deviant fantasies, desires for power and control, retribution, religious fanaticism, political reprisal, psychiatric illness, perceptual distortions, peer acceptance or personal and financial gain. iPredators can be any age or gender and are not bound by economic status, race, religion or national heritage.
iPredator is a global term used to distinguish anyone who engages in criminal, coercive, deviant or abusive behaviors using ICT. Central to the construct is the premise that Information Age criminals, deviants and the violently disturbed are psychopathological classifications new to humanity. Whether the offender is a cyberbully, cyberstalker, cyber harasser, cybercriminal, online sexual predator, cyber terrorist or engaged in internet defamation or nefarious cyber deception, they fall within the scope of iPredator. The three criteria used to define an iPredator include:
I. A self-awareness of causing harm to others, directly or indirectly, using ICT.
II. The usage of ICT to obtain, tamper with, exchange and deliver harmful information.
III. A general understanding of Cyberstealth used to engage in criminal or deviant activities or to profile, identify, locate, stalk and engage a target.
Unlike human predators prior to the Information Age, iPredators rely on the multitude of benefits offered by Information and Communications Technology (ICT). These assistances include exchange of information over long distances, rapidity of information exchanged and the seemingly infinite access to data available. Malevolent in intent, iPredators rely on their capacity to deceive others using ICT in the abstract and artificial electronic universe known as cyberspace.
Therefore, as the internet naturally offers all ICT users anonymity, if they decide, iPredators actively design online profiles and diversionary tactics to remain undetected and untraceable. Cyberstealth, a sub-tenet of iPredator, is a covert method by which iPredators attempt to establish and sustain complete anonymity, if they so decide, while they engage in ICT activities planning their next assault, investigating innovative surveillance technologies or researching the social profiles of their next target.
Michael Nuccitelli, Psy.D.
Michael Nuccitelli, Psy.D. is a NYS licensed psychologist and cyber criminology consultant. He completed his doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Adler University in 1994. In 2010, Dr. Nuccitelli authored the dark side of cyberspace concept known as “iPredator.” In November 2011, he established iPredator Inc., offering educational, investigative, and advisory services involving criminal psychology, cyberstalking, online predators, internet trolls, the dark side of cyberspace and internet safety. Dr. Nuccitelli has worked in the mental health field over the last thirty-plus years and he has volunteered his time helping cyber-attacked victims since 2010. His goal is to reduce victimization, theft, and disparagement from iPredators.
In addition to aiding citizens & disseminating educational content, Dr. Nuccitelli’s mission is to initiate a sustained national educational and awareness internet safety campaign with the help of private, state, and federal agencies. He is always available, at no cost, to interact with online users, professionals, and the media. To invite Dr. Nuccitelli to conduct training, media engagements, educational services, or consultation, please call him at (347) 871-2416 or via email at email@example.com.
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