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Americans now spend as much time online as they do watching TV — about 13 hours a week.
While TV viewing has remained fairly constant, time spent surfing the Web has increased more than 120 percent over the last five years.
If there is no physical contact or actual sex, is it still an affair?
“It’s not just that you’re communicating with someone online but that there is a sexual or emotional nature,” says Katherine Hertlein, Ph D, an associate professor at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas who studies online affairs.
Young sees more women who are online cheaters, in part, she says, because women gravitate toward erotic chats and webcam sessions while men often are drawn to pornography.
“The Internet is opening up these new ways of exploring your sexuality and that includes infidelity,” she says.
“There aren’t receipts for hotels or dinners or excursions.” With the faceless nature of the Internet, anonymity also is easy to come by.
“You could be at home or at work or sitting on the couch with your partner chatting to someone online.” As costs for Internet access have dropped, online affairs are also very affordable.
They can be easy to conceal, as long as the cheating partner deletes the Web browser history and any incriminating e-mails.
Several studies have focused on the “AAA engine” that drives online affairs, namely accessibility, affordability and anonymity.
“The Internet is extremely accessible no matter where you are,” Hertlein says.