Problematic internet use or pathological internet use, is generally defined as problematic, compulsive use of the internet, that results in significant impairment in an individual’s function in various life domains over a prolonged period of time. Young people are at particular risk of developing internet addiction disorder,[1] with case studies highlighting students whose academic performance plummets as they spend more and more time online. Some also suffer health consequences from loss of sleep,[2] as they stay up later and later to chat online, check for social network status updates or to reach the next game levels.[3]

Excessive Internet use has not been recognised as a disorder by the World Health Organization, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) or the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). However, the diagnosis of gaming disorder has been included in the ICD-11. Controversy around the diagnosis includes whether the disorder is a separate clinical entity, or a manifestation of underlying psychiatric disorders. Research has approached the question from a variety of viewpoints, with no universally standardised or agreed definitions, leading to difficulties in developing evidence based recommendations.

As adolescents (12–19 years) and emerging adults (20–29 years) access the Internet more than any other age groups and undertake a higher risk of overuse of the Internet, the problem of Internet behavior disorder is most relevant to young people.