Date
22 February 2018
A majority of primary and secondary school students admit that their online habits have led to increased quarrels with their parents. Photo: Screen shot of the Department of Health's webpage
A majority of primary and secondary school students admit that their online habits have led to increased quarrels with their parents. Photo: Screen shot of the Department of Health's webpage

Internet addiction among schoolkids worsens, survey finds

Internet addiction levels among school students have seen a marked increase in Hong Kong in recent years, a situation that should cause alarm for parents, a government study suggests. 

According to a survey conducted last year by the Department of Health on use of the internet and electronic screen products by schoolkids, 13 percent of primary pupils were spending at least three hours a day online.

That represents a significant jump from 2014, when a similar survey showed only 3 percent of the primary students said they were glued to electronic screens for such duration.

For secondary students, the ratio rose from 30 percent to 34 percent during the period.

Twelve percent of the surveyed primary pupils suspected that they might have an internet addiction problem, compared to eight percent three years ago, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Among secondary students, the corresponding figure stayed at around 20 percent.

The survey also found that 53 percent of primary students had quarreled with their parents over use of the internet or electronic screen products. As for secondary students, such fights were even more, with 70 percent saying they had those issues.

About 40 percent in each of the groups felt their academic performance had been affected by such activities.

Separately, data from a survey of 140,000 primary and secondary students showed 30 percent of primary students and 68 percent of secondary pupils spent two or more hours using the internet or electronic screen products for purposes unrelated to learning during school days in the 2016/17 academic year.

That might have been the reason why many students spent less time sleeping, as the department found that nearly three to four in ten primary students slept less than the recommended nine to 11 hours a day.

Dr. Thomas Chung Wai-hung, a consultant on community medicine (student health services) for the health department, pointed out that the World Health Organization is set to include “gaming disorder” in a list of mental health conditions during the agency’s 11th International Classification of Diseases exercise this year.

According to a WHO draft document, gaming disorder is defined as a “persistent or recurrent” behavior pattern of “sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.”

If students have just been concentrating on playing online games but ignoring other activities, such as studying, doing homework, seeing friends or exercising, they can be suspected of a disorder that can seriously harm them in multiple respects of their life, according to Chung.

The expert worries that the government’s policy to develop e-sports industry may end up worsening internet addiction among students further.

Society must pay high attention to potential risks involved, Chung said.

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TL/JC/RC

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