The Rise of the Internet-Addiction Industry

By Clare Foran
Clare Foran
Clare Foran
November 9, 2015 Updated: November 9, 2015

Recovery starts with detox and support groups. Or with workers in hazmat suits sealing away your electronic devices in containers marked “biohazard.” Or with a trip to a remote stretch of desert, where you’ll learn the skills needed to survive in the wild.    

Welcome to the world of Internet-addiction treatment. Amid a tidal wave of fear that technology is taking over our lives, institutions promising to treat the problem of too much time spent online are cropping up across the country. Treatment caters to adolescents and adults, and ranges from the clinical to the unconventional: There are overnight hospital stays, digital-detox retreats, wilderness-therapy camps, and psychiatrists who prescribe medication and talk therapy.

Mental-health experts who say that Internet addiction exists are quick to point out that simply counting up the hours spent online is not enough for a diagnosis. Instead, they say, Internet use must significantly and adversely affect daily life—causing relationships, work, or health to suffer—to qualify as an addiction.

For at least some parents, the decision to send a child to Outback is a last resort.

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