Internet use sparks family quarrels: poll

Local | Riley Chan 9 Feb 2018

Seven out of 10 secondary students often quarrel with their parents over excessive internet use, while about the same percentage of students admit they're deprived of sleep due to online gaming.

These astonishing findings were revealed in a survey conducted last year by the Department of Health, which interviewed 1,352 people - including 684 secondary school students and 641 parents - on their use of the internet and other electronic products.

Sixty-eight percent of students said they spent more than two hours on electronic devices a day, exceeding the World Health Organization's recommendation. The department's community medicine (student health) consultant, Thomas Chung Wai-hung, attributed this troubling trend to the internet being so accessible.

He said prior to the popularity of technology, parents could limit their children's screen time by installing a computer in the living room instead of inside their children's rooms.

"But nowadays everyone has a mobile phone, and it's more convenient to go online," Chung said, adding that many teenagers spend long hours on the internet playing video games, which can be very addictive, as most games activate the brain's internal reward system.

They survey also found more than half of the parents interviewed believe the excessive internet time has affected their children's daily lives, but 30 percent said they do not know how to curb the amount of time their kids spend online.

Chung said parents should communicate with their children and set rules over the use of electronic devices.

They should also arrange more outdoor activities for their children, which could be as simple as taking them to the park.

"Children, especially younger ones, have a lot of energy and love to move a lot. They might even be happier to run around than to sit still in front of an electronic device," he said.

Despite the adverse impacts of electronic gadgets, Chung said parents shouldn't impose a complete ban on using such devices. Instead, he suggested that they use them to spend time with their children.

He explained that many teenagers go online due to poor family relationships. They think their parents don't understand them, and therefore seek validation online. An improved family relationship could reduce the chances of internet addiction, Chung said.

Parents should also set a good example by limiting their use of electronic devices while waiting in queues or eating, he said.

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