Technology addiction is very real - Taipei Times
Thu, Feb 08, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Technology addiction is very real

By Chao Che-sheng 趙哲聖

The Chinese-language Apple Daily on Jan. 25 reported on the so-called “Internet gaming disorder,” saying that it is on the rise in Taiwan.

Excessive Internet use has led to the emergence of Internet separation anxiety disorder in children. There have been cases of children shouting the house down, smashing objects and even threatening to commit suicide when parents restrict Internet use.

Psychiatrists are beginning to categorize this particular form of post-separation emotional disorder in children as “Internet gaming disorder.”

The question is: Can children and young adults be treated for this new disorder?

In recent years, technology has become closely integrated into our lives. We are now constantly plugged in and online.

Technology and media companies have turned interaction with the Internet and electronic devices into a ritualized group process. Wherever one looks, people are standing or sitting, heads craned over smartphones. As a society, we are regressing back into childhood.

With all aspects of work, entertainment and life undergoing a kind of “Pokemon-ization effect,” information sent and retrieved at the speed of light has become a kind of intravenous drip for the majority of users; for a number of people it has even become a “digital poison.”

With the expansion and integration of “smart” devices, and as their functions become more powerful, we rely on our smartphones to carry out all manner of tasks in our daily lives.

As tech companies promote the Internet of Things, everything from virtual reality and augmented reality to smart speakers and driverless cars will produce a constant flow of interconnected content from the Internet between our mobile devices.

The inescapable, all-pervasive network created by the Internet and smart devices will turn users into addicts and we will all soon unconsciously fall into the cold, ritualistic behavior patterns created by modern technology.

As far as children’s technology use is concerned, many parents cave in too easily.

In restaurants, how often does one see parents allowing their children — not even at kindergarten age — to play with a mobile phone or tablet?

They put programs on for their children to watch or allow them to play an “educational” game so that these devices become a kind of “digital nanny” to give exhausted parents a break.

However, children who are exposed to digital stimulation from an early age develop particular habits and thought processes, and a premature biological addiction will occur.

If over-indulgent parents allow their children to cultivate an early dependence on digital smart devices, this could result in the child experiencing anxiety.

Furthermore, there is a “cool-factor” that radiates from the fantastic variety and innovative features of today’s mobile devices and online games, which can be used to quickly interact with others and share information in a fun way.

All sorts of apps can be used to assist interpersonal relationships. Apps such as Facebook and Line allow for the sharing of information with others, while games such as World of Warcraft, the live-streaming video platform Twitch, instant messaging, stickers and audio-visual media dominate entertainment and information spaces, providing the user with ownership and control.

Children are attracted by this and search out apps that provide cool and exciting stimulation. For many children, mobile devices have therefore become their whole world.

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