Objectives: Excessive and addictive internet use fulfilling criteria of nonsubstance related addiction disorder is increasingly being discussed by scientists and clinicians alike. Its prevalence of about 3 % among minors points to a relatively frequent phenomenon that can lead to functional impairment and distress. However, there is still no evidence concerning its prevalence among underaged patients in psychiatric treatment.
Methods: 81 patients between the age of 8 and 17 years were screened by a standardized instrument for internet addiction (AICA-S) to assess the prevalence of internet addiction among minors being treated in psychiatric inpatient settings. Their clinical symptoms were examined using Youth Self-Report and Child Behavior Checklist.
Results: 11.3 % of the patients fulfilled the criteria of addictive internet use. These patients were older and more often affected by anxiety and depression than patients without internet addiction.
Conclusions: Data suggest that internet addiction is a relevant factor among minors in psychiatric institutions. Those with comorbid internet addiction show distinct patterns of psychopathology and may require disorder-specific treatment.