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Our View: New problems need new solutions

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A low-key study was published a couple of days ago about young people’s addiction to social media and to the internet in general. It made for depressing reading.

According to the study an over-reliance on technology has led to the impoverishment of social skills, a shortened attention span and a reduction in the ability to retain information. It defined addiction as a situation where a person devotes so much time and effort to it that it harms other social activities, studies, work, relationships, mental health and well-being.

Around 8 per cent of those surveyed were officially classed as addicted to social media, and 24 per cent officially addicted to the internet. That does not sound like a lot statistically speaking, but when combined with the fact in general, just over a quarter of those polled spent two hours online, 35 per cent up to four hours, 30 per cent up to eight hours and nine per cent spent eight hours and above online, that means essentially 75 per cent of young Cypriots spend at least four hours online every day at a minimum.

No doubt the lockdowns have aided in increasing this given that their social activities have been curtailed so there is not much point in the authorities beating their breasts about it when they had a big hand in it.

It was also sad, even though the number was small (7 per cent), that some young people thought communicating online was better than real life. How long before that number increases due to social conditioning, remote learning and lockdowns? It will become second nature to turn to a device to ‘meet up’ with friends?

The authors of the study called on the government to allocate resources to ‘prevention and treatment’ as if the internet is like a drug that you can just remove from a young person or remove them from it. It’s not. It’s literally a part of life. Unless you live totally off-grid in a cabin in the woods, there is no escaping it in the modern world, at least if you need to work or be educated.

The speed at which social media has taken over the lives of young people is irreversible for better or worse. Older generations who remember the freedom of roaming the city or countryside all day with friends, would see it as being for the worse.

However, the future of today’s youth is irrevocably intertwined with technology. No amount of ‘prevention programmes’ are going to work. All we can do is find a way to deal with the fallout, and an outdated approach on the lines of drug addiction is not the solution. New problems need new solutions.

Pre or post internet, parents, not authorities should always be the first line of defence in teaching their children that there is more to life than staring at a screen. But just like TV became the ultimate babysitter in previous decades, children now are also being left to their own devices… literally.

 

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