Internet addiction is not a problem seen only in children and adolescents, it is becoming increasingly prevalent among adults as well, with a significant proportion of Taiwanese adults saying they would find it hard, if not impossible, to live without the Internet, a recently released survey showed.
The survey focused on digital technology and Internet use, and was commissioned by the Executive Yuan’s Research, Development and Evaluation Commission. It was conducted during the second half of last year and polled 6,551 adult workers across the nation, commission officials said.
The survey found that 17 percent of respondents said they could only handle not having access to the Web for seven days or less, while 15.9 percent put their limit at two to three days and 5.1 percent said they could not live without the Internet for a single day.
Overall, the results indicate that 38 percent of workers polled have some degree of Internet use dependency, but that a majority do not, with 56.9 percent of participants saying they could manage just fine without going online.
Though the percentage of those who reported having a severe Internet addiction — 5.1 percent — is small, the figure represents up to 470,000 people when that rate is extrapolated to the 9.65 million total adult workers nationwide.
Huang Wei-wei (黃葳威), a researcher of mass media and digital technology at National Chengchi University, said that many people like to surf the Web after work to play games, peruse the news, socialize with friends and various other reasons.
The poll showed that 51.9 percent of workers need to use the Internet as part of their job, while 69.6 percent use it for instant messaging, more than 60 percent go online to purchase goods and the same proportion surf the Web to for news or get information on cultural events.
“However, in most cases, adult workers are using the Internet while under quite high levels of physical and mental exhaustion. In these conditions, users are more prone to be easily persuaded by suggestions and make bad decisions,” she said.
Given this, she urged the Council for Labor Affairs and private companies to raise awareness of and publicize the potential dangers of using the Internet, especially in excessive amounts.
The survey found that 4.1 percent of respondents said they had fallen prey to online scams in the past 12 months, while 2.9 percent reported having been bullied on the Internet during the same period.
A high proportion of those polled — 31 percent — said their computers had been infected by a virus as they surfed the Internet and 12.6 percent said they had made wrong decisions based on information they found online that they thought was reliable.
People that become involved in disputes, fall victim to scams, or experience other problems while using the Web, can call the “Internet Safety” hotline at (02)3393-1885 for help. The helpline was set up and is run by Cyber Angel’s Pick, a non-profit civic group based in Taipei.
Although 42.2 percent of survey participants believe the Internet has enabled them to expand their social circle, 67 percent said surfing the Web has impacted their health to some degree, with some saying it had done so significantly.