Internet addiction can lead to mental disorder, says don

Lecturer in counselling Sapora Sipon says parents’ love for their children cannot be replaced by self-absorbing gadgets.

NILAI: Social media and online video game addiction can lead to mental disorder, a Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM) senior lecturer said.

Nurhafizah Mohd Sukor, who teaches leadership and management, said usage of social media or new media must be controlled.

“The adverse effect is that it can result in psychological and cultural problems,” she said.

Nurhafizah said the situation was not peculiar to Malaysia as other countries were also feeling the impact.

“Nevertheless, the internet is a trend we cannot escape from. The question is whether or not we can control our usage of it in a more positive or effective manner,” she told Bernama.

Last month, a 16-year-old girl committed suicide after 69% of responders voted “Death” when she posted an Instagram poll on whether she should choose death or life.

Nurhafizah said those affected are mainly students aged between seven and 18, whose thinking skills have not yet matured.

“Only at age 30 are they mature and able to control their executive functions such as decision making, solving a problem and restraining their impulses,” she said.

She said extreme anxiety and depression or loss of self-confidence may affect a teenager who may have been defeated in an online game or received negative comments from netizens.

Similarly, a child may suffer tantrums and meltdown when a gadget is suddenly taken away.

According to Nurhafizah, internet obsession may not only result in mental disorder but could potentially stunt the physical and mental development of a healthy community if there is no control and intervention.

Affected individuals may lose their ability to speak or converse, their movements become passive and they may develop signs of autism even though they are not autistic, she said.

Sapora Sipon, a lecturer in counselling at USIM, shared similar views but said online games that have an objective could stimulate the cognition, reasoning and decision-making power and team spirit of the players.

“Online games are in essence good but from another aspect, when misused and when negative elements are introduced, they will change from being positive to negative.

“Speaking of the negative effects, online games can instill aggression and deceptive values,” she said.

Sapora said it was crucial for parents to be with their children while they are growing up rather than substitute their love, attention and presence with a self-absorbing gadget that the children will inevitably build a close relationship with.

“It’s not that you cannot let your child have the gadget but it must be appropriate with their development. The functions of the gadget must be suitable with their thinking and cognition,” she said.