Close to half a million Czechs hooked on mobile phones, social networks, and online gaming

The National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Addictions monitors the use of illicit drugs, alcohol, tobacco and gambling.  This year, for the first time, it also mapped addictions to digital technologies and has concluded that close to half a million Czechs over the age of 15 are seriously “hooked” on mobile phones, social networks, and online gaming.

How many hours do you spend online outside of work? How often do you pick up your mobile phone and could you survive a day without it?  You may argue that digital technology has become an indelible part of our lives and is fairly harmless, compared to other addictions, but experts are ringing alarm bells and saying that like any other, this addiction can upset the balance in your life, cause of a number of health disorders and damage relationships with family and friends.

Illustrative photo: natureaddict,  Pixabay,  CC0

According to experts, 445,000 people in the Czech Republic over 15 are at risk of developing an addiction to mobile phones, social networks, and online gaming and over 125,000 of them are at “high risk”.  Pavla Chomynova, head of the National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Addictions says the Covid pandemic worsened people’s dependence on digital technologies and young people are particularly vulnerable in this respect. According to the outcome of their study excessive use of the internet and digital technologies affects up to a quarter of adolescents.

“Basically, the youngest age group is most at risk, that is people in the 15-24 age bracket. The prevalence of people at risk of digital addiction in the overall adult population is five to six percent, while in the 15-24 age group it is almost 20 percent.”

So what do they do most of the time – are they on social networks or hooked on games?

“It is both. Among boys or young males there is a higher dependence on gaming than among females. On the other hand the use of social media is much more prevalent among females.”

According to expert studies, the cut-off point indicating an addiction is four hours online outside of work. People who exceed that time are at serious risk of developing an addiction. The problems tend to mount gradually. Those afflicted narrow all their contacts to the online world and increasingly shun socializing in real life. While their physical activity declines, conflicts with friends and family are on the rise. School grades and work performance suffer. Moreover, as with every addiction, any disruption of the time spent online is accompanied by anxiety, depression, and even aggression.

Illustrative photo: JESHOOTS-com,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License

Statistics say that three-quarters of adults are online daily, outside of work or study. More than two-thirds of people are on social media. Adults most frequently use the Internet to check up on the latest news and look up information, browse social media, and shop online. Almost a quarter of people play digital games.

On weekdays, people spend an average of 130 to 150 minutes online, outside of work and study. At the weekend, it is 160 to 180 minutes.

Men spend more time online than women, by an average of twenty to thirty minutes. While men spend more time playing games and looking at pornography, women are on social media and shop online. Six to seven percent of men and about five percent of women are at risk of developing an addiction, the report said.

Addiction specialists point out that the goal in treating this type of addiction is to reduce the time spent online and to gain control over it. There are currently over 300 help centres for addiction problems in the country and insurance companies cover the cost of treatment for 150 to 180 people a year.