For nearly three decades, the World Wide Web has been revolutionizing how we learn, how we love, and how we, uh, share dank memes. But while for most of us the online world is, on average, a force for good, for others it can be a catalyst for some pretty unhealthy behavior.
Now, to help us better understand the mental and physical consequences of what they've termed "problematic use of the Internet" (PUI), researchers are officially launching the European Problematic Use of the Internet (EU-PUI) Research Network: a pan-European network aimed at examining and identifying disordered online behavior, as well as its causes and potential treatments.
"Problematic Use of the Internet is a serious issue," explained Professor Naomi Fineberg, a consultant psychiatrist from the University of Hertfordshire and Chair of the network, in a statement. "Just about everyone uses the Internet, but information on problem use is still lacking."
The network currently includes 123 experts from 38 countries across Europe and is funded through a €520,000 grant from the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST). But although the project has its roots in work looking at obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders, the new network aims to include a broad range of disciplines in its research.
"We will need more than just psychiatrists and psychologists to help solve these problems," Fineberg said. "We need to bring together a range of experts, such as neuroscientists, geneticists, child and adult psychiatrists, those with lived experience of these problems and policymakers, in the decisions we make about the Internet."