The Internet has impacted massively on society, not only socially but also economically and politically. The political potential is great and certainly not yet fully recognised. However, there is a downside. People are becoming dependent on, and at times addicted to, being on-line. How do you react if the system goes down for hours – or even days?
I have just been reading an article in the latest issue of Government Gazette by Dr Richard Graham, Clinical Director, Adolescent Directorate, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. He notes that in a recent survey, 63% of young people aged between 11-18 described themselves as being ‘addicted’ to the Internet, with 26% of them saying they spend more than six hours a day online. He goes on:
“Much of this time online may involve healthy social contact, though it is mediated through the rapid, hyper-stimulating medium of instant messaging, and largely without any adult moderation. The impact this has on sleep and concentration is often noticed within education settings, though the longer-term impact on neurodevelopment would be a useful focus for research. For others, high levels of engagement with social media platforms such as Facebook creates a difficulty switching off, and of feeling painfully excluded from the large numbers of ‘friends’ who still stay online when you do switch off.”
We appear to becoming a little too dependent on the Internet, sometimes unhealthily so. It cannot only impact on sleep but also limit the capacity to handle social contact other than online contact. We cannot do without the Internet, but how can we ensure our use is balanced? Is there an answer?