Singapore teens are among the most Internet-savvy in the world. Even back in 2008, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore's statistics showed that some 98 per cent of teenagers were already using the Internet. It might be good to ask yourself, “what’s the average amount of time spent on the internet every day?”

Cyber Addiction

Online games have become popular amongst children and teens but be careful of the psychological effects of video games on impressionable kids.

Many young people used the Internet to play video games online. Gaming is so popular in Singapore that organisations, such as the Cybersports and Online Gaming Association (Singapore), have been set up to promote gaming and e-sports, and help Singapore win big at international e-sports events.

Other popular Web activities include online networking, using Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or even YouTube, and online shopping or file sharing. Facebook use is so widespread that even schools are creating their own Facebook pages to reach out to existing and former students.

Online activities are enjoyable, so it is easy to spend long hours on the computer. It is normal for you to want to spend more time on activities that fascinate you, and these interests are often good outlets for learning, creativity and self-expression.

However, when any activity becomes the major focus of your life, sometimes to the point where it starts to harm you physically, mentally or socially, you may be suffering from an addiction problem.

Signs of Gaming Addiction and Internet Addiction

According to Ms Lim Hui Khim, deputy head of counselling and senior counsellor at the National Addictions Management Service in the Institute of Mental Health, it is important to understand that while there is nothing wrong with computers and technology, users have to be aware of their potentially addictive nature and set appropriate limits to prevent online activities from becoming a problem.

So when do long hours at the computer indicate a problem? Check out some of these warning signs from the Centre for Internet Addiction:

  • Do you need to play online games or engage in online activity for ever greater lengths of time in order to achieve the desired excitement?
  • Are you preoccupied with gaming or an online activity (thinking about it when offline, anticipating your next online session)?
  • Have you lied to friends and family members to conceal the extent of your gaming or online activities?
  • Do you feel restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gaming or online activities?
  • Have you made repeated, unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gaming or online activities?
  • Do you use gaming or online activities as a way of escaping from problems, or to relieve feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety or depression?
  • Have you jeopardised or lost a significant relationship because of your online activities or gaming habit?
  • Have you jeopardised an educational opportunity because of your online activities or gaming habit?

If you answered yes to any of the questions, it would be helpful to talk to a professional counsellor and have a proper assessment conducted.

If you notice that a friend displays some of these warning signs, try telling him of your observations or encourage him to participate in more outdoor activities, Ms Lim said. As peers can be an influential force in a teenager's life, your encouragement and advice could be very helpful in helping him break his unhealthy game-playing habits.

Ms Lim also advises friends and loved ones of an addicted person to stay calm and avoid over-reacting, and to encourage the addicted person to seek help. If he refuses, you should seek help to learn how to cope with the situation.

For advice and information on cyber-addiction, call the All Addictions helpline on 6732-6837. It is available Mondays to Fridays, from 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM.

Visit MindSG for more tools to take care of your mental well-being.

Visit Parent Hub, for more useful tips and guides to give your child a healthy start.

Download the HealthHub app on Google Play or Apple Store to access more health and wellness advice at your fingertips.

Read these next: