2 March 2013

Nigeria: Internet Addiction Endangers Life

The internet, as we all know it, provides a constant source of information, and can be accessed from most smart phones, computers and laptops these days. While the time spent online can be highly productive, addiction to internet usage can interfere with work, daily life and even relationships. RALIAT AHMED-YUSUF writes on the inherent dangers of this inescapable use disorder.

The use of internet globally has become so addictive that people can hardly do without it. While the positive effects cannot be overemphasized, the use is becoming a problem as addicts report negative consequences from their use.

Being addicted to internet use, apart from causing a low performance in school in the case of students, there is an increased likelihood of experiencing mental health disorders.

Internet addicts will experience symptoms of withdrawal when not on the internet and would always feel the need to spend more time online in order to feel satisfied, just like alcohol and drug addicts who when deprived always suffer from withdrawal syndrome.

These days, people communicate, work, shop and pay bills online, which makes the internet a very important tool for many. But, experts think the time spent on the internet is not really relevant, as one person may spend a great deal of time online, but may not experience an addiction, while another may spend comparatively little time, and experience problems due to the usage.

If a person has a hard time controlling the amount of time spent online, they may well be addicted. The way the internet negatively affects the quality of life is the most important criterion for the diagnosis of an internet addiction, as it all depends on what a person does while on the internet.

An IT expert, Mr. Ibrahim Abdulmalik, explains the consequences of getting addicted to the internet. "The internet has woven itself into the fabric of our lives that most people use it everyday, sometimes for hours a day, and most eventually become addicted to it. Internet addiction is of different types, namely sexually-related internet addiction, email or text messaging addiction and game addiction. Before you can say that somebody is addicted to internet, it depends on the purpose of going online."

According to the Abuja-based expert, sexually-related internet addiction is one form of addiction that if not checked could result in undesirable side effects. Also known as cybersex or cyber-porn, it is the most common type of internet addiction. Online interactions through chat rooms and dating websites give people the chance to cheat their partners by having affairs.

"People affected by this kind of addiction more often than not watch pornographic images on the internet. They spend a whole lot of time in downloading images, creating files and exchanging sexual information with friends," he said, pointing out that addicts in this category spend a lot of time in front of the computer, which leads to greater risks.

The consequences in this case can be devastating to not only the addicts, but also to those close to them, because, at the end of the day, it can leave an addict isolated, intensely anxious and depressed to the point of committing suicide.

The IT expert noted that game addiction is another form of internet addiction that is quite common among young people, especially secondary school students. They spend a lot of time playing games on the internet instead of studying. Playing games on the internet as a range of recreational activities may not be harmful or indicate an addiction, but when game playing is addictive, it takes over the person's life with other important areas of life such as schooling being neglected or disrupted.

The earlier a child begins playing games such as video games on the internet, the more likely such child is likely to develop dependence-like behaviours, he says.

In the case of the third types of internet addictions which are excessive e-mailing and texting, Abdulmalik said it can pose some dangers, because those in this category are addicted to texts, emails ,facebooking and tweeting.

Some people, who use computers in the office, log-on as soon as they got home. In a situation where there is no access for this category of addiction, they suffer from feelings of withdrawal, which could lead to some form of mental illness.

"The use of mobile phones with internet connectivity, for instance, and the use of BIS by Blackberry users have made internet addiction a very serious problem. One may not really have to use a PC to access the internet. Apart from mental illness, a very serious risk like auto-accidents is also very common. Most car accidents these days are caused by cell phone messaging," he stated.

Abdulmalik added that despite the varieties of internet addictions, they are all characterised by Internet addictions negatively affecting the quality of life, like deteriorating social relationships, social isolation, poor work or school performance.

Most internet addicts spend a great deal of time online will lose track of time while surfing and will forget to meet basic needs such as sleep or food, while on the internet.

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