THE “Digital 2019: Global Digital Overview”, a report by creative agency Hootsuite showed Filipinos spend the most time on the internet and on social media sites—an average of 10 hours, 2 minutes on the internet via any device. Closely related to this report, a study released by Universal McCann entitled “Power To The People - Wave3” declared the Philippines as “the social networking capital of the world, with 83 percent of Filipinos surveyed are members of a social network. Pinoys are also regarded as the top photo uploaders and web video viewers, second when it comes to the number of blog readers and video uploaders.
Question, what is the correlation between the Filipinos being declared as the most active users on a number of web-based social network sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, and the Philippines scoring the lowest in reading comprehension in the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)?. Filipinos fared worst among 79 countries in reading comprehension and second lowest in both mathematical and scientific literacy.
But how exactly does internet game, social media, and gadget addiction correlate to the PISA tested Filipino students, and ranked poorest in reading comprehension and mathematics? Internet addiction (or, for this column, “IT”) has been defined in existing studies as the inability to control one’s urge to use the internet, which eventually causes psychological, social, school, and/or work difficulties in one’s life (Chou and Hsiao, 2000; Spada, 2014). Logically, this definition extends to gadget and social media use.
In Malaysia, a research conducted by a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Dr. Norharlina Bahar, revealed that males under the age of 24 have the highest IT addiction (The Star, 2016). Students, especially the undergraduates aged between 19 and 24 years old are deemed to be more susceptible to internet addiction (Lee, 2010; Thatcher & Goolam, 2005). Individuals who use the internet excessively mostly play online games and browsing social media. The side effects of the excessiveness led to anxiety, depression, health problems, school absenteeism, lying, fatigue, unemployment, decreased job productivity, and social isolation. The addiction to the internet also could translate to low self-esteem, depression, boredom, and attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (Norharlina, 2016).
Now, let us apply these findings on our disturbing social reality.
Some reactions to the dismal performance of the 15 year old Pinoy respondents of the PISA study, immediately pointed to the “the failure of the government’s K to 12 program.” This is so far from the truth. The root cause is gadget/IT addiction. The sooner we admit as a people, the high incidence of IT /gadgets addiction through computer games and social media the more relevant and effective will be our interventions. We cannot be on a denial mode on this serious malaise affecting not only children, teenagers, college students, but also adults—professionals, office workers, labourers and even ordinary housewives.
Cellphone/gadget addiction as previously defined is the root of our mental deterioration as a people. This has made it easy for us to be taken in by trolls, and false feeds in social media. We have to act now to stop this widespread addiction, and mental deterioration resulting from long hours spent on scrolling smart phones or iPads, psychological dependence on internet games, Facebook and the like, to get a psychic high.