Internet addiction a mental disorder, say academics

08 Jun 2019 / 11:15 H.

NILAI: Social media and online video game addiction is detrimental to the wellbeing of netizens.

Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (Usim) senior lecturer (Leadership and Management) Dr Nurhafizah Mohd Sukor said failure to control the obsession could lead to mental disorder.

“Of late, usage of social media or new media has become common in our society; however, it must be controlled. The adverse effect is that it can result in psychological and cultural problems.”

She said the situation was not peculiar to Malaysia as other countries were also feeling the impact.

“Nevertheless, the internet is a trend we cannot escape from. The question is whether or not we can control in a more positive or effective manner, our usage of it,” she told Bernama recently.

Last May, a 16-year-old girl committed suicide after 69% of responders voted ‘Death’ when she posted an Instagram poll on whether she should choose death or life.

Nurhafizah said the particularly susceptible cluster are students aged between seven and 18, whose thinking skills have not yet matured.

“Only at age 30 are they mature and able to control their executive functions such as decision making, solving a problem and restraining their impulses,“ she said.

She cited the extreme anxiety and depression or loss of self-confidence that could uncontrollably overwhelm a teenager who may have been defeated in an online game or received negative comments from netizens, or a child’s tantrums and meltdown when a gadget is suddenly taken away from the kid.

According to her, internet obsession may not only result in mental disorder but could potentially stunt the physical and mental development of a healthy community, if there is no control and intervention.

Affected individuals may lose their ability to speak or converse; their movements become passive and they may develop signs of autism even though they are not autistic, she said.

Meanwhile, Usim Assoc Prof Datin Dr Sapora Sipon who is a lecturer in counselling shared similar views and added that online games that have an objective could stimulate the cognition, reasoning and decision-making power and team spirit of the players.

“Online games are in essence good but from another aspect, when misused and when negative elements are introduced, they will change from being positive to negative.

“Speaking of the negative effects, online games can also instil aggression and deceptive values,” she opined.

Hence, she said it was crucial for parents to “be there” for their children while they are growing up rather than substituting their love, attention and presence with a self-absorbing gadget that the children will inevitably build a close relationship with.

“It’s not that you cannot let your child have the gadget, but it must be appropriate with their development. The functions of the gadget must be suitable for their thinking and cognition.

“The problem is, some parents ignorantly give high-specification gadgets to their children who may not yet be strong enough to control their emotions and will be learning too fast and inconsistent with their physical development,” she said.

In any case, she said, moderation was very important, be it social media, online games or E-Sport, which are good. The key is to have a control system. — Bernama

email blast