Before the invention of the smartphone or the internet, a story such as this one would make the “news of the weird” pile. However, considering the importance that many people place on connectivity and digital access, it begs the question of mental health issues in conjunction with the internet.
On July 22nd, a burglar cut a window screen on a California home in the middle of the night, entered the home where a family was sleeping, woke the couple, and asked for their wifi password. According to witnesses at a different home the suspect burgled the night before, he claimed he was out of data on his mobile phone and needed to use someone’s wifi.
In the actual break-in, the incident ended when the homeowner jumped out of bed and physically shoved the suspect out of the house. Police located the suspect nearby, where they discovered that he was a 17-year-old and had stolen a bicycle the day before.
Unfortunately, riding the bicycle to a Starbucks and using their wifi must not have occurred to the burglar.
This report would be humorous if not for the fact that the youth is also charged with stealing two knives out of the kitchen drawer upon entering the house. There’s no way to know if he planned to resort to violence if the homeowners didn’t cooperate, as he was overpowered before he could harm anyone and then later arrested.
There are now documented reports about internet addictions, actual phobias about not being near your mobile device, and more. Critics are quick to dismiss these issues, but more and more health professionals and addiction experts are making the strong case that internet access is no less significant to some people than alcohol or drugs.
Without further evaluation, it’s not possible to say that a genuine addiction sparked this particular incident, but it does stand to reason that law enforcement officials may find more and more similar cases as this addiction becomes more widespread.