"Anthony Chan betrays the tell-tale signs of his addiction: his skin is pallid and covered in spots, he sits nervously hunched, peering to correct his blighted vision and he has trouble communicating with friends and family." - собственно, яркая картика of skin covered in spots и привлекла внимание к статье с драматичным названием
Hong Kong Internet junkie fight to combat addiction
HONG KONG (AFP) - Anthony Chan betrays the tell-tale signs of his addiction: his skin is pallid and covered in spots, he sits nervously hunched, peering to correct his blighted vision and he has trouble communicating with friends and family. At just 16 he is emotionally fragile, physically ill and his future has been compromised by the addition which has him in its grip.
But when the lights are switched off he gets online, he could not care less about the problems it brings [вот точно как я!] . His drug is the Internet and, when connected, it makes the lonely Hong Kong schoolboy feel on top of the world.
"The computer is my friend, it's my life, my social life," says Chan, shifting in his chair and squinting in the glare of the brightly-lit office where we talk. It is one of the few times this week he has left the confines of his bedroom where he spends hours and hours every day logged onto the Internet and he is missing it already, he says.
In the neon-shiny future-world of Hong Kong, the computer is king and the Internet its kingdom. Some 90 percent of the population owns or has access to a computer and everyday an estimated 3.5 million of the territory's 6.8 million population logs onto the Net. Around Asia, the numbers logging on run into the hundreds of millions.
For many, of course, the Internet is just what it was meant to be: a source of information and means of communication, helping them keep in touch with family and friends around the world. But for some of the Net-generation, like Anthony, who have grown up surrounded by home computers, video games and the Internet, this strange new world has its dangers. A basic function the Net was invented to assist has been lost: the art of human communication.
According to research by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, more than a third of 1,002 parents surveyed in Hong Kong, like Anthony's, said their children, like the children of tens of thousands of families round the region, are virtually addicted.
In the United States, where researchers are grappling with the phenomenon, a study by Net-psychologist Kimberly Young suggests as many as one in 10 users spend abnormal amounts of time on the Web [это сколько, интересно?].
And judging by a sudden increase in cases being referred to care organisations, it appears to be a trend that is mushrooming rapidly throughout the more developed parts of Asia.
"It is not surprising they get addicted," says Wendy Fung, a social worker at the Hong Kong Family Welfare Society who approached Anthony Chan for his problem and is helping him fight his addiction.
"We put a lot of resources and energy into encouraging students to use computers. They type their homework on them, research information on the Internet and communicate through e-mails with fellow students."
Anthony himself admits the pain it causes him when he is not online. "I miss it when I'm not using it. When I go home, I switch on the computer straight away," he says, his bent-over stance acquired during hours hunched over his keyboard giving him the haunted look of a hunted man.
"One of my favourites is science-fiction. I go through up to 60 stories a day," he says, rocking his head back and forth in an effort to soothe the neck pain he suffers from mouse and keyboard use.
And the long hours he spends on the computer -- usually surfing until around 3 a.m. and sometimes throughout the night -- has also left him perpetually tired and his eyes dry from sleep-deprivation.
Socially, too, he is a wreck. He is unable to make eye contact with other people and he has lost the articulateness he had as a youngster. His self-esteem has crashed and left him prone to bouts of self-doubt. He has no goals he can think of in life. And the great outdoors holds little allure. "I'm not particularly good at sports -- I would vomit if I run," he tells me. "The Internet keeps me company, it keeps me out of boredom," he says.
Louis Leung, a journalism and communications professor at the Chinese University, says that for young people in Hong Kong, many of them unsure of what they want from life, the Internet is often irresistible. "You can be someone else in cyberspace," Leung says. "People at a young age are still unsure about their identity. There are a lot of boundaries in real life, there's etiquette you have to follow. But when you are on the Internet, you can be free."
Relationships are damaged by the obsession with this escape. "When it came to dinner time, my mum would shout and tell me to take a break... but I was too into my computer," Anthony recalls. "I didn't listen to her. Sometimes I would skip dinner and that would lead to a lot of arguments with my mum."
According to his social worker, Fung, a lot of families do not understand the attraction of the Internet and its underlying risks. "For parents who are foreign to computers, it is difficult to advise their children on computer usage," she says. And the poorer relationship these children have with their family, the bigger chance they will resort to the Internet for comfort, for friends.
Leung agrees: "Young people are not good at time management [я тогда очень молодой], they are not mature enough to have the will power to control themselves at an age when they still need to be guided." The more they become addicted to the Net, the worse they become. "The more they do it, the more they are detached from reality," Leung says.
"I don't really like going out and meeting people," Anthony admits. At school, he pays no attention to his classes and only thinks about rushing home to his computer. "This has really affected my schoolwork because I've had no time to study," he says. Unsurprisingly, after a promising start to his academic career, Anthony failed all his classes last term and is now at risk of missing the first rung on the city's notoriously competitive careers ladder.
"I couldn't control myself. I knew what I was doing was wrong. I knew the damage it was doing to my life. Everyone told me to quit but I chose to ignore them," he says.
The term 'Internet addiction' has been used to describe problematic, excessive or mal-adaptive use of the Internet, and it neatly sums up the situation Anthony is in.
In her book "Caught in the Net", US psychologist Young said an Internet addict was someone who would stay online for pleasure averaging 38 hours or more per week, and wrote that, "Internet addicts can be people who are depressed, lonely, afraid to go out and in high family conflicts."
Judith Ng, another social worker at the Hong Kong Family Welfare Society, ran a short course for young addicts including Anthony Chan but says more resources are needed to properly address the growing problem.
Counselling helps, as does forced abstinence, she says. Her courses seek to build self-confidence and communications, social and leadership skills through specially-designed tasks that require human interaction.
For now, the course seems to have had some affect on Anthony who tells me he has begun cutting down the hours he spends on the Internet and is trying to improve relations with his family. He has also made a stab at cultivating other hobbies, using what he has learned online to write his own books.
It takes time, energy and cooperation with his family to succeed, but his addiction, like that of others, can be cured, Fung says.
"We've seen successful cases which motivates us to go on."
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