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LCQ11:Internet addiction among young people
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     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Kin-por and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (June 6):

Question:

     In recent years, the Government has stepped up its efforts in promoting the development of information technology, and adopted digital inclusion initiatives to encourage more people to learn how to use computers and surf on the Internet. However, as revealed by a survey, quite a number of people in Hong Kong have become addicted to Internet surfing, indulging themselves in the virtual world and being unable to extricate themselves from it, and conflicts between the young people and their family members arising from their indulgence in Internet surfing are very common. According to the survey findings released by the Against Child Abuse early this year, 36% of the students surveyed had conflicts with family members because of their indulgence in Internet surfing. Moreover, as revealed in the survey findings released by the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups recently, 47% of the young people surveyed had conflicts with their parents at least once a week, and the main reasons for that included their behaviour of surfing on the Internet or playing electronic games. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the authorities have conducted any study or analysis on the situation of Internet addiction among young people and its impact (including addicts' physical and mental development and their relationship with family members); if they have, of the findings; if not, whether they will consider conducting such studies;

(b) whether the digital inclusion initiatives (eg the Internet Learning Support Programme) implemented by the authorities have included any measure to prevent Internet addiction among students; if not, whether they will consider including such measures; and

(c) whether the authorities will consider providing young Internet addicts with comprehensive professional treatment services, and introducing measures to prevent Internet addiction among young people; if not, of the reasons for that?

Reply:

President,

     With the rapid development of information technologies in recent years, web surfing has become an indispensable part of young people's life. However, the virtual world of the cyberspace is a place of hidden risks for young people. In recent years, delinquent behaviours related to web surfing, such as compensated dating among teenage boys and girls, cyber bullying and online suicidal pact, etc, have aroused wide concern in society. Different policy areas are concerned with the problem of internet addiction among young people, and these are being addressed by the respective bureaux.  

     Having consolidated the information of the bureaux concerned, our reply to the Hon Chan Kin-por's question is as follows íV

(a) The Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) launched the one-year "Be NetWise" Territory-wide Internet Education Campaign (the Campaign) in 2009/2010 to raise awareness among youngsters as well as their parents and teachers on safe and proper use of the Internet. During the campaign, OGCIO commissioned the Department of Social Work and Social Administration of the University of Hong Kong to conduct a study on how parents guide and supervise their children in using the Internet, with a view to comparing the perceptions of parents and children on the risks and proper behaviours on using the Internet. The study researched into, among other subjects, the problem of Internet addiction and found that over ten per cent (11.3%) of the youngsters interviewed were facing the risks of Internet addiction.  In addition, the study revealed that Internet addiction has a strong correlation with factors including family relationship and the parenting modes, etc. On the other hand, peer relationship helps reduce the risks of Internet addiction among the youngsters. The detailed report can be downloaded from the website of the Campaign (www.benetwise.hk/internetstudy.php).

(b)  The Government launched the five-year "i Learn at home" Internet Learning Support Programme (the Programme) in July 2011 to help students from low-income families undertake web-based learning at home. Apart from assisting eligible families to acquire affordable computers and Internet access services, the Programme also provides these families with user and social support, including training on the safe and proper use of the Internet. In addition, as required by the Programme, the implementing organisations have set up hotlines to provide counselling services to help students and their parents deal with online behavioural problems including Internet addiction. Referral to social workers will be arranged where necessary. For other students and parents from non-low income families, similar hotline services have also been arranged through the Education Bureau.

(c) Apart from the services mentioned in part (b) of the reply, the Social Welfare Department (SWD) has been providing young people with a range of preventive, developmental and remedial services to help them build up positive values and prevent them from having delinquent behaviours including Internet addiction, during their developmental stage. The services concerned include the "one school social worker for each secondary school" scheme implemented in all secondary schools over the territory to offer appropriate support and counselling to students in need, such as guiding them to use the Internet properly. SWD has also subvented 138 integrated children and youth services centres across the territory to provide young people with socialisation programmes and holistic supportive services at the neighbourhood level which include prevention of Internet addiction among young people and supportive services assisting parents to deal with their children's problem on Internet addiction, etc. In addition, there are currently 62 integrated family service centres in all districts over the territory which provide a continuum of preventive, supportive and remedial services to families in need, including counselling services for tackling parent-child relationship problem.

Ends/Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Issued at HKT 12:30

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