Objective: To describe the emergence of, and myriad issues pertaining to, problematic internet use in childhood and youth. In this overview and appraisal of a uniquely 21st century affliction, the focus is on youth and less on young adult perspectives.
Conclusions: We employed relevant literature-search methodology though EMBASE, Psychinfo and Web of Science, utilising the key terms of PIU, internet addiction and youth mental health, and present a selection of the pioneering and important research developments both nationally and internationally. We focused on the literature from the past 10 years, but we also included relevant early developments in the field going back to the 1990s. We also made reference, where appropriate, to major considerations of relevance to the general public, where these were reported in reputable international news and media organisations. The authors utilised common internet search engines to access these news reports. It was found that the complex, novel and at times controversial concept of ‘problematic internet use’ (PIU) – often popularly dubbed ‘internet addiction’ – has attracted much public, media and research interest, particularly over the past decade. In common with many other afflictions that have a prominent ‘pop-cultural’ component, often the commentary and debate has been polarising, unclear and sensationalist. At times, more light than heat appears to be generated.