Home > HK
Saturday, September 10, 2016, 01:01

Excessive use of electronic devices raises health concerns

By Dara Wang

Excessive use of electronic devices raises health concerns

HONG KONG – There is an urgent need to raise public awareness on potential health risks brought about by excessive use of electronic devices, especially to children and adolescents, speakers told a seminar organized by the city’s health authority on Friday.

The event followed a three-day meeting to look into the dangers of overusing internet, co-organized by the Department of Health of Hong Kong and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The meeting came amid tech giant Apple’s release of its new iPhone model in Hong Kong, which triggered a fresh Apple fan craze – as the new model was sold out in less than 20 minutes after pre-ordering was made available on Friday afternoon in Hong Kong.

Enthusiasm for new smart gadgets may indicate a sustained increase in the ownership of electronic devices among Hong Kong residents.

Director of Health Constance Chan Hon-yee cautioned at the seminar that the age at which people use electronic products is getting lower. Young people are "particularly vulnerable" to the risks as they are less capable of self-regulating.

According to a survey conducted by the Department of Health, the median age of pre-school children starting to use computers is 24 months old, while for tablets the median age is as early as 16 months.

Thus, the department has disseminated health tips such as keeping a proper viewing distance from electronic screens and controlling the volume of mobile devices among students, parents and teachers.

This is to help develop healthy use of digital devices among the young generation, Chan said. The department advised parents to spend more time with children to stimulate them to be physically active and go outdoors.

Patrick Ip Pak-keung, clinical associate professor at the Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), said parental guidance plays a major role in preventing health problems induced by children’s excessive use of electronic devices.

HKU conducted a cohort study following some 600 children at local kindergartens since five years ago on the physical and psychological impact of early use of digital devices.

Results show that children’s excessive use of the devices without parental guidance will lead to sleep deprivation, reduced academic performance and impaired social skill development, Ip revealed.

Other health impacts include physical inactivity, eye and vision symptoms, hearing damage, family problems and difficulties in the regulation of gaming and internet use, Ip said.

The WHO has introduced a new diagnostic category of gaming disorders due to internet addiction in the draft of the 11th International Classification of Diseases in this year, said Vladimir Poznyak, coordinator for Management of Substance Abuse in the WHO.

A multi-sector approach is in need to improve education and training related to excessive gaming among educators, clinicians and the public, Poznyak said.

Latest News