Oct 25, 2013

    Wired and now addicted

    YOU know that something is bad for you, but simply can't stop yourself from doing it. It's called addiction.

    Forget cigarettes or alcohol. Two in three Singapore adults admitted in a recent survey that they are getting addicted to social networking and spending time online.

    Almost three in four also agreed that it is hard to break the habit of spending too much time in front of their computers, TV sets and mobile devices.

    The results of AIA's 2013 Healthy Living Index Survey, which were released yesterday, revealed that Singaporeans were aware how their wired lifestyles could have ill effects on their health.

    More than seven in 10 agreed that they should spend less time online as it prevents them from getting enough sleep and exercise.

    Conducted online in July, the study tracked health-related attitudes and behaviour in the region. Over 10,200 people from 15 countries were surveyed, 500 of whom were from Singapore.

    Principal clinical therapist Stielmond Ng said there has been a steady increase in the number of cases involving online addiction over the years, and individuals seeking treatment are getting younger.

    "This is a worrying trend but not entirely surprising, based on research from Western countries," said Mr Ng, co-founder of Ministry of Therapy, which specialises in psychotherapy and mental-health issues.

    Dr Joel Yang, head of the Master of Counselling Programme at SIM University, said: "We have grown quite adept at scanning and skimming (through information), but have also started to lose our capacity for concentration and reflection."

    Mr Ng added that spending a fairly large amount of time online does not necessarily signal an addiction. He said Internet addiction is "an uncontrollable compulsion" to go online, even when people know they have other responsibilities.

    Dr Yang said it is not easy for some people to know when they are spending time online unnecessarily, given the pervasiveness of technology today.

    Both experts suggested that individuals keep a record of how much time they spend online. Mr Ng added that friends and family can also offer feedback.

    Sociology undergraduate Yu Ting, 20, said that she spends up to six hours a day online. During semester breaks, this can rise to 12 hours.

    "I will ask my boyfriend to take away my iPhone when I need to study," Ms Yu said.