How is Asia coping with a relatively new kind of addiction it has never seen before?
When Google and Facebook announced that they were going to do something to improve the connectedness of the world through the Internet, they probably didn’t realize that something as simple as watching YouTube or playing mobile games could trigger addiction in children and adults.
But it is now happening in Asia, and we are witnessing an alarming rise in Internet-related mental health disorders due to the overuse of technology that was supposed to keep us all connected.
Philippines, a relatively young player in the global telecom scene, is surprisingly the home of the world’s heaviest internet users. According to a joint report from We Are Social and Hootsuite, screen time from Philippine users has reached an all time high of 10 hours and 2 minutes every single day. While reports of Internet addiction have been appearing on local media since 2017, comprehensive data on Internet or gaming addiction remain incomplete.
Ten years ago, the government of China classified Internet addiction as a public health threat. Today, children as young as fourteen are being investigated by the Education Bureau for truancy in school – and all because they have become addicted to games like Honor of Kings and League of Legends. One such patient, Li Jaizhuo, became heavily addicted to the two games, according to his mother.
“He had cut himself off from the real world. W dared not block his access to the internet for fear he would harm himself. It was the end of my world.” Li Jaizhuo’s mother, Qui Cuo, said.
Li was checked in to the Adolescent Psychological Development Base, located 19 miles off central Beijing. The drab facility was designed to provide help and support to youths and adults who are suffering from Internet or gaming addiction. Tencent, one of China’s biggest mobile technology companies, has attempted to help reduce the impact of Internet addiction by introducing age verification in its games, which could theoretically reduce the usage time of minors using their apps.
China has well over 800 million Internet users, and its homegrown gaming industry is estimated to be raking in over $30 billion annually. According to Tao Ran, a former colonel from the People’s Liberation Army who runs the Adolescent Psychological Development Base, internet addiction has become “such a big problem in China” and that “it’s no longer a problem just for teenagers.” According to Tao Ran, China now has nine-year-old kids and 30-year-old adults suffering from the same addiction. They’re also seeing an influx of girls and children from the more rural areas of the country.