Technology could be humans’ best friend. But if technology is not used in a proper way, it could paralysed not only the people, but also the nation. With smartphones cheaply available now, many people, especially the youngsters, are spending most of their time on the Internet.
Internet addiction phenomenon has become a serious problem among adolescents around the world, especially in the Eastern countries. In a report published by the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine in 2009, past research revealed that 1.4 per cent to 17.9 percent of adolescents are addicted to the Internet. The number, the journal said is higher in the East compared to Western countries.
Back in Malaysia, Internet addiction problem has reached a serious stage, where many youngsters are suffering mental health problems due to the long time spent in front of computers and gadgets.
In a latest research by the International Medical University, it was revealed that the “most adverse effect from social media addiction is stress, anxiety and clinical depression”. The head of the research, Dr. Ke Guek Nee said in an article by Bernama which appeared in The Malaysian Times that the habit of spending most of their time online had also adversely affected other aspects of their lives.
“It led them to have poor physical health following unhealthy eating habits, in addition to sleep disturbances, reduced physical activities – which ultimately affected their focus in classes and lessons as well and even socially segregated due to their lack of interaction with the real world,” Dr. Ke was quoted saying. The study was tested on 1,000 undergraduates nationwide, with 60 per cent of the respondents suffered from anxiety related to social media addiction.
The advancement in mobile gadget technologies also means easy access to the Internet no matter where you are. This has moved human communication and socializing from reality to social media, which is also another unhealthy mental problem.
According to Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), 72 per cent of the 18.6 million Internet users in the country are aged between 7 and 35. The Internet World Statistics shows that Malaysia is among the 10 Asia Top Internet Countries with more than 20 million Internet users.
The Internet addiction and cyber security issue, according to MCMC Head of the Outreach and Engagement Dicivision Eneng Faridah Iskandar, are not only affecting youngsters in urban areas, but also students in rural areas, especially in schools where free laptops and Internet access are provided.
Besides affecting their mental health, Internet addiction is actually doing more than that. It has turned the physical exercise activities into virtual exercise among the children.
“Before technology became pervasive, children were known to be active and energetic. They walked to school and played all day. Today, all they playing they do is on the Play Station,” Deputy Director of the Institute of Teacher Education, Raja Melewar Campus, Dr Mehander Singh was quoted in an article.
The article in The Malaysian Times also stated that majority of the children aged between 7 and 12 are not doing enough physical activities. According to a study by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and Nestle on 100 respondents, only 27 per cent are engaged in physical activities during their free time.
Together with bad eating habit practiced by most Malaysians, children are suffering from either being underweight or obese. A South East Asian Nutrition Survey (SEANUTS) by FrieslandCampina and four universities from Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand revealed that in every 20 children, one is underweight and one in five is obese.
Psychiatric Consultant Dr Muhammad Muhsin Ahmad Zahari said Internet addicts can be identified by simply analysing their Internet usage pattern which includes excessive usage (more than four hours of non-essential use), disruption of social functions and behavioural change.
“Just like chemical addicts, digital addicts will display withdrawal symptoms such as anger, irritability and distress when their access to digital world is limited or revoked.
“Malaysia has high chances of developing a segment of society that are Internet addicts in the near future,” Dr Muhsin was quoted by The Rakyat Post.