The “selfie” trend – of taking self-portraits with our digital devices and sharing via social media – may have just crossed a line.

Reports are circulating about “selfie addiction.” The poster boy for this has been a young Englishman, Daniel Bowman, who at one point took 200 pictures of himself a day, tried to commit suicide when he couldn’t take the perfect picture, and was diagnosed with various forms of disorders, one of them being obsessive-compulsive disorder.  So it’s really not a laughing matter.

The obsession with selfies may just be a passing trend, but it is also one more sign of the broader seductive power of social media.

In 2012, scientists and researchers in Norway at the University of Bergen developed a psychological scale for symptoms of addiction to Facebook. Called the  Facebook Addiction Scale, it listed six basic criteria, where items were scored on the following scale: (1) Very rarely, (2) Rarely, (3) Sometimes, (4) Often, and (5) Very often.

Here are their criteria:

▪     You spend a lot of time thinking about Facebook or plan use of Facebook.

▪     You feel an urge to use Facebook more and more.

▪     You use Facebook in order to forget about personal problems.

▪     You have tried to cut down on the use of Facebook without success.

▪     You become restless or troubled if you are prohibited from using Facebook.

▪     You use Facebook so much that it has had a negative impact on your job/studies

Scoring “often” or “very often” in 4 of the 6 items suggest one is addicted to Facebook.

The symptoms of this addiction resemble those of drug addiction, alcohol addiction, and chemical substance addiction. It’s fairly easy to just do a search and replace on the term “Facebook” and insert “selfie” or other social media activities – from Pinterest to Twitter – to gauge if one might have a problem… My guess is a lot more people than we think might qualify.

A noteworthy finding by the Bergen researchers in the Facebook study was that the addiction was related to extraversion. The research also indicated that women were more at risk of developing Facebook addiction, probably due to the social nature.

A new Pew Research Center survey finds that Millennials are more inclined to post selfies on a social media site (55%) vs. all Americans (25%) who have shared a selfie on a photo-sharing or social networking site.

So, the trend in selfie obsession is particularly concerning for parents of teens – who worry their kids have little perception of privacy and may share too much and do so inappropriately…

A recent ABC News Good Morning America report on the topic gave some good advice to parents on addressing selfies, or any other form of compulsion or obsession they might observe in their kids:  monitor, investigate and intervene – if necessary.

Our online activities and lives can be creative, fun and harmless. It all boils down to knowledge – being informed and educating our kids on the basics can go a long way. That truly is our best defense.

I’ll close with a plug here for the AVG ebook Guide For Parents to help parents navigate the world of selfies, social media and Internet security.