The Internet Addiction Test (InAT; Young, 1998) is a 20 item self-report questionnaire that measures problematic internet use or “Internet Addiction”. Internet Addiction, a concept proposed by Young (1998), is defined as excessive and uncontrollable use of the internet that leads to problematic behaviour and impairments in daily function. For example, a user that experiences low mood from not using the internet or who lies about how much they use the internet are exhibiting symptoms that may be related to Internet Addiction (Servidio, 2017). Note that Internet Addiction is not currently recognised as a disorder in the DSM-5, although there are calls for further research in this area (see DSM-5, section II and section III).
The InAT can be administered to any internet user from adolescent age onwards (where appropriate language translations exist) to screen for internet addiction. Respondents answer items questions on a 6 point scale (0 = does not apply, 5 = always) and scores can range from 0-100. Scores that are 39 or less indicate average usage, scores from 40 – 69 indicate problematic usage and scores 70 and higher indicate severely problematic usage (Jelenchick, Becker, & Moreno, 2012). Example of item questions include “Do you block out disturbing thoughts about your life with soothing thoughts of the internet?” The IAT is considered easy to administer (can be distributed online) and relative easy to comprehend, assuming the respondent has a basic level of literacy ability. It is estimated to take no more than 10 – 15 minutes to complete. The IAT is currently freely available online through peer-reviewed scholarly journals and there does not appear to be any restriction on its use.
Young’s (2017) interest, and subsequent proposal “Internet Addiction” and the InAT, came from observations of her friend’s disintegrating marriage due to internet usage. The husband of the relationship spent excessive time and money on the internet and developed extramarital affairs online (Young, 2017). At this time, other behavioural addiction research were covering topics such as excessive video gaming and television use but not specifically “Internet Addiction” (Young, 1998). The DSM-IV-TR also recognised pathological gambling as the only non-toxin/behaviourally based addiction disorder (see DSM-IV-TR). Young (1998) used the DSM-IV-TR criteria for pathological gambling as the basis for creating an 8-item screener for Internet Addiction which was later expanded to the 20-item version of the InAT that is used today (Faraci, Craparo, Messina, & Severino, 2013).
It appears the first external research team that tested the psychometric properties of the InAT was in 2004 (Widyanto & McMurran, 2004) and there have been several studies since that have examined the translation and validation of the InAT in other countries (for example, the IAT has been examined in Poland, Bangladesh, Turkey, Spain, Greece, India etc.) as well as a short version and adolescent version (IAT-A). Recent research shows that the InAT has appropriate convergent and discriminant validity (for example, the InAT showed good convergent and discriminant validity with the Revised Chen Internet Addiction Scale, with depressed subjects and with actual internet related behaviours, such as time spent online and reasons for usage; Servidio, 2017). However, several studies have also indicated some issues with reliability (lower reliability in adolescent populations compared to college populations; Frangos, Frangos. C., & Sotiropoulos, 2012) and one study demonstrated that the InAT was not sensitive enough to effectively discriminate between pathological and non-pathological internet users in a clinical population (Kim, Park, Ryu, Yu, & Ha, (2013). Factor analysis continues to show discrepancy between research teams, with some teams extracting from 1 up to 6 factors (Jelenchick, 2012) although 2 factors tends to be common (Faraci, 2013).
It is likely though that some of the issues with the psychometric properties of the IAT pertain to the conceptual difficulties with Internet Addiction (whether Internet addiction is its own disorder or whether the internet is just the platform that allows for other pathological disorders to exist, such as online gambling) and with the changing face and social use of the internet in general (Servidio, 2017). Keeping this mind, caution is advised with respect to using the InAT for any diagnostic purposes in the adolescent or clinical population (until the InAT is subjected to further research) although it may be a useful screener tool for the general community/university population to identify problematic internet usage.
Kimberly S. Young. 2009. Internet Addiction: The Emergence of a New Clinical Disorder. Cyberpsychol & Behav 1(3); 237-244.
Laura Widyanto & Mary McMurran. 2004. The Psychometric Properties of the Internet Addiction Test. Cyberpsychol & Behav 7(4); 443-50.