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The term was used by M. Shotton in 1989 in her book Computer Addiction. It is relatively recent academically, since widespread use of computers by the general public for non-professional purposes only began in the 1990s. However, there are examples of obsessive recreational users dating back to the first time-shared computer games, and many NetNews users were considered obsessive in the 1980s.
An extension of this behavior is the theorized Internet addiction disorder, symptoms of which are pathological or problematic Internet use.
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 increasingly 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 is often used to distinguish extensive use of computers from compulsive over-use, or addiction.
In 2004 the Finnish Defence Forces revealed that they allow some conscripts to postpone their military service for three years for dependence on computer games and the Internet.
The study of cybersex, emotional infidelity, the impact of computer use or violent video games on the brain's capacity for empathy and sympathy, the dangers associated with dating systems and obsession with computer games are all part of this field.
- Dawn Heron. Time To Log Off: New Diagnostic Criteria For Problematic Internet Use, University of Florida, Gainesville, published in Current Psychology, April 2003  (Identifies incessant posting in chat rooms as a form of emotional disorder).
- Orzack, Maressa H. Dr. (1998). "Computer Addiction: What Is It?" Psychiatric Times XV(8).
- Shotton, MA (1989), Computer Addiction? A study of computer dependency. New York: Taylor & Francis.
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