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Are You Online Too Much

Addictions often involve socially unacceptable behavior. So the idea of being addicted to online sports might seem more amusing than troubling. But Kimberly Young, a clinical psychologist who specializes in Internet-related addictions, treats people whose lives have suffered from logging on to too much online sports. That and this report from the USA Today's Michael Hiestand

'It's consistent with other addictions. And it's a bigger problem than we realized,' says Young, who heads the Bradford, Pa.-based Center for Online Addiction, which was billed as the first training institute and health care clinic for online mental health issues when it was founded in 1995. 'Because sports is legitimized in society, (online sports addiction) is minimized as a problem. It's there, but we don't talk about it.'

Well, understandably. Obsessed sports fans are more likely to be seen as harmless compared to the people obsessed with more gamy online material.

Says Young, who also consults corporations about employee Internet use: 'If you have employee A who, say, downloads two pieces of pornography per month and employee B who looks at sports online 20 hours per week, who are you going to fire?'

Employee A, apparently. While most corporations can monitor employees' online use, she says, that isn't much of a deterrence: ''Employees think they can get away with stuff that doesn't seem bad, like looking at sports, checking their stocks, reading newspapers online.''

But Young, who offers counseling via e-mail and chat rooms, claims online sports can lead to big problems. She treated a 34-year-old man who was warned and being monitored by his boss for spending too much time on sports. His wife, who had moved out with their 18-month-old, found he had begun to put his obsession to use by betting their retirement savings on sports.

''It was uncontrollable,'' Young says. ''He just had to look online to get hooked.''

He's made progress, although he still allows himself his ''non-electronic fix,'' sports in newspapers. That and this report from the USA Today's Michael Hiestand

Young, who recently wrote Caught in the Net, a book billed as ''the first recovery book for Internet addiction,'' does not yet include a self-test for online sports addiction on her center's netaddiction.com site, although there are tests for online addictions to stock trading, cybersex and gambling.

In terms of online sports, Young describes the at-risk group, as it were: ''They're males in their 30s and 40s, sometimes younger. They like to bet, even just in office pools. They watch sports on TV a lot. They tend to be manic. They're hyper about lots of things.'' That and this report from the USA Today's Michael Hiestand


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