The Internet and virtual social networks are new technologies that have had most impact on young people and have provided many benefits to their users. However, some people become obsessed with the Internet, are unable to control their use of it, and may put their work and relationships in jeopardy. This paper addresses the issue of the maladaptive use of these technologies. Internet use and abuse are related to psychosocial variables, such as psychological vulnerability, life stress and family and social support. There are some specific risk factors for abuse of virtual social networks among young people. Certain alarm signs appear before a hobby becomes an addiction. The concept of 'Internet addiction' has been proposed as an explanation for uncontrollable and harmful use of this technology. Symptoms of excessive Internet use can be identified with the criteria used to diagnose other chemical or non-chemical addictions. Prevention strategies in both home and school settings should be implemented on the basis of behavioral risk factors and demographic characteristics. The goal of treatment for this type of addiction, unlike the case of other addictions, cannot be total abstinence, but rather controlled use. The psychological treatment of choice appears to be stimulus control and gradual exposure to Internet, followed by a cognitive-behavioral intervention in relapse prevention. There is a need for more information about young Internet abusers and about the most appropriate programs for treating them. More research is required on the enhancement of motivation for treatment and the types of brief intervention available in relation to the problematic use of Internet among young people. The implications of the present review for clinical practice and possible future research directions in this field are discussed, as well as the problems as yet unsolved.