Manifesto for a European research network into Problematic Usage of the Internet
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The Internet is now all-pervasive across much of the globe. While it has positive uses (e.g. prompt access to information, rapid news dissemination), many individuals develop Problematic Use of the Internet (PUI), an umbrella term incorporating a range of repetitive impairing behaviours. The Internet can act as a conduit for, and may contribute to, functionally impairing behaviours including excessive and compulsive video gaming, compulsive sexual behaviour, buying, gambling, streaming or social networks use. There is growing public and National health authority concern about the health and societal costs of PUI across the lifespan. Gaming Disorder is being considered for inclusion as a mental disorder in diagnostic classification systems, and was listed in the ICD-11 version released for consideration by Member States (http://www.who.int/classifications/icd/revision/timeline/en/). More research is needed into disorder definitions, validation of clinical tools, prevalence, clinical parameters, brain-based biology, socio-health-economic impact, and empirically validated intervention and policy approaches. Potential cultural differences in the magnitudes and natures of types and patterns of PUI need to be better understood, to inform optimal health policy and service development. To this end, the EU under Horizon 2020 has launched a new four-year European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) Action Programme (CA 16207), bringing together scientists and clinicians from across the fields of impulsive, compulsive, and addictive disorders, to advance networked interdisciplinary research into PUI across Europe and beyond, ultimately seeking to inform regulatory policies and clinical practice. This paper describes nine critical and achievable research priorities identified by the Network, needed in order to advance understanding of PUI, with a view towards identifying vulnerable individuals for early intervention. The network shall enable collaborative research networks, shared multinational databases, multicentre studies and joint publications.