An estimated one in seven students at junior high and high schools in Japansuffers from internet addiction, a growing disorder that is affecting academic performances and daily activities, a health ministry report showed, writes Yu Kotsubo for The Asahi Shimbun.
An estimated 930,000 of these students are addicted mainly to online games or social networking sites, up about 400,000 from the previous survey taken five years earlier.
The results of the fiscal 2017 survey, released on 31 August, also showed that internet addiction is starting at a younger age.
A group of researchers led by Yoneatsu Osaki, professor of public health at Tottori University, contacted 184 junior high and high schools across the nation for the study. About 64,000 students from 103 schools gave their responses.
The researchers concluded that respondents were highly likely to be suffering from internet addiction disorder if they answered “yes” to at least five of eight questions asked.
The questions included: Have you often experienced trouble limiting or halting your Internet use? Have you felt irritated or down on yourself after trying to limit your Internet use? Have you used the Internet longer than you had initially planned? Have you lied to your teachers and parents to hide your dependence on the Internet?
In the latest survey, 12.4% of the junior high school students answered “yes” to at least five of the questions, more than double the 6% in the fiscal 2012 survey.
The ratio was 16% for high school students, up from 9.4% in the previous survey.
Among first-year junior high school students, 10% showed strong signs that they were addicted to the Internet. While this was the lowest ratio among the age groups, it topped the%ages for high school students in any year in the previous study.
For students who answered “yes” to three or four of the questions, the researchers said they “may have a problem with their Internet use.”
Some 22.2% of junior high school students and 27.6% of high schoolers, or an estimated 1.61 million students in total, fall into this category.
Seventy percent of junior high school students and 90% of high school students are smartphone users, according to the study.
Regardless of age, about 80% of respondents cited video-sharing sites as the most frequently used, followed by searches of information mentioned by about 70%.
Boys are more likely to play online games while girls are more frequent users of social networking sites, according to the study.
Among second-year high school students, 53.3% showed signs that their frequent use of the internet was affecting their academic records; 50.5% nodded off during classes; 13.7% were late for school; and 10.4% reported trouble with friends.
Osaki said the actual number of students with Internet addiction could be “higher” because those absent from school were not among the respondents.
The World Health Organization in June recognized gaming disorder, a type of Internet addiction, as one of the International Classification of Diseases for the first time. According to the classification, people with gaming disorder cannot perform normal daily activities because of their excessive use of online games.
A Cabinet Office survey last year of children under 10 found that 28.2% of 2-year-olds and 65.8% of 9-year-olds use the internet.Report on The Asahi Shimbun site