Computer addiction is an obsessive addiction to computer use. The term was used by M. Shotton in 1989 in her book Computer Addiction, although the concept was discussed years earlier with British E-Learning academic Nicholas Rushby.
In his 1979 book, An Introduction to Educational Computing, Rushby suggested that people can be addicted to computers and suffer withdrawal symptoms. There are also examples of obsessive recreational users dating back to the first release of computer games, and many NetNews users were considered obsessive in the 1980s.
A variation of computer addiction is the proposed Internet addiction disorder, which suggests that people can not only be addicted to an object, such as a computer, but also an environment, i.e. the Internet. As gaming in the form of PC games and game consoles from various companies like Nintendo and Sega caught on and spread through the end of the millennium, the use of Internet as an increasingly viable medium for communication also rose, and traditional offline activities such as politics and dating began to take advantage of online capability. As a result, computer addiction became a more serious study, and a more vocal social concern.
With the almost-ubiquitous use of computers in the 21st century, it has become difficult to distinguish users who are merely highly engaged in their computer use from those who could be considered truly addicted. Criteria based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders criteria for substance dependency has been used to distinguish mere extensive use of computers from compulsive over-use or addiction. However, the definition of "true computer addiction" is subject to debate.
In 2004 the Finnish Defence Forces revealed that they allow some conscripts to postpone their military service for three years due to dependence on computer games and the Internet.
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