Allocate more resources to fight Internet addiction

The education sector yesterday received Sh339 billion from Budget statement to Parliament, Sh78 billion of which was allocated to Department of Science and Technology.

A study carried out by Cradle-Kenya some time back, revealed 40 per cent of children in Kenya are addicted to the Internet.  The statistics showed children’s online activities as downloading music, playing games and Facebooking. Platforms are on increase.

As with traffic measures, you don’t just teach children how to cross the street once; you repeat the lesson for years. Similarly, talk about internet/app safety, must be continuous. How much information should you share? With whom should you communicate? What should you post?

On August 26, 2012, a headline in the China Daily read: “Web addiction instructors face scrutiny”, while on Jan 8, 2013, Reuters carried a story headlined: “Horses to the rescue of Korea’s Internet-addicted teens”.

Internet addiction is a reality. Clinicians say symptoms of addiction include drop in school or job performance, reduced involvement with family and friends, loss of interest in hobbies or pursuits, feelings of anxiety or depression when away from one’s computer, angry or defensive reaction when someone comments on your behaviour and taking steps to hide the extent of your computer/Internet use or even a psychotic break with reality.

A Psychiatry Investigation report of 2014 described an alarming case of a “25-year-old male who developed a full-blown psychotic episode, after discontinuing an Internet game that he had been playing for at least eight hours a day for two years.”

“Excessive internet use may cause parts of teenagers’ brains to waste away”, a 2011 University College London Study by neuroscientists revealed. The study discovered signs of atrophy of grey matter in the brains of heavy internet users that grew worse over time.

Concentration and memory, ability to make decisions and set goals are some areas that become affected. The study conclude that addicts could reduce their inhibitions, leading to “inappropriate” behaviour.

The State and parents shoulder the responsibility of understanding how harmful social media and other online platforms can be, and have measures within their budgets and allowances, to avoid the trap that this vice could pull them into.

—The author is Senior Communications and Media Officer, World Vision, Kenya.

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