KUALA LUMPUR • A 14-year- old boy loved gaming so much that he refused to get out of his house for six months - until his parents hauled him out to seek treatment for Internet addiction.
While such cases are not uncommon in countries such as Japan, China and South Korea, where there have been cases of deaths from gaming binges, researchers say the problem is getting worse in Malaysia.
A study led by child psychologist Norharlina Bahar found that the prevalence of problematic Internet users in Malaysia could be as high as 49.2 per cent, with these users spending at least five hours a day in front of the computer screen.
Local studies also found that 37 per cent of Malaysian parents felt their children's online lives were interfering with their home and school obligations, while 18 per cent said their children were sacrificing basic social activities to spend more time online.
Research showed that males aged below 24 from Klang Valley, Ipoh or Penang were the most susceptible to Internet addiction.
"Most spend time on online games and social media and there is enough evidence to show links to anxiety, depression, physical health problems, school disconnection, unemployment, decreased job productivity and social isolation," Dr Norharlina said. "There is no denying that the Internet eases our lives but when it affects your mental health and interferes with your day-to- day work, you need help."
In the case of the young boy, Dr Norharlina said he became irritable and angry when he was cut off from the digital world as part of the treatment.
"This is becoming a bigger problem now," she said.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK