Is the internet allowing negative influences to enter our youth’s lives?

The information super highway, popularly known as the internet, is one of the greatest discoveries of the last century, ranking only next to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and the Theory of Quantum Mechanics.

There has been an explosion in internet usage in early part of the 21st century. The internet has created new ways for individuals to communicate, meet and exchange information about their lives, with social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram becoming almost synonymous with the internet. The internet is however, must broader in its scope. It has changed the field of education and health, in the form of massive open online courseware (MOOCs) and tele-medicine respectively. The face of business has changed beyond recognition, thanks to the developments in e-Commerce, E-Business and E-Marketing. A study by Stephen Siwek of Economists Incorporate, a premier economic consulting firm in the USA, discovered that businesses directly connected with the internet created wealth of about $966 billion for the US economy in the year 2014 alone.

The dangers of a ‘wired’ world are many and often insidious, especially for young people who are naïve to the horrors of the net.

Personal Health

The time spent in front of computers can be injurious to health, contributing to obesity, undeveloped social skills and addictive behavior. Physical inactivity is probably the most obvious culprit of an internet lifestyle. The traditional emphasis on a balanced life-style, combining the mental and physical dimensions and providing for adequate rest, falls prey to the couch-potato syndrome seen in a typical consumer of the internet. In a paradoxical way, the ready convenience of the Internet for shopping, gaming, etc limits physical activity and leads to a sedentary lifestyle.

Social Disconnect

It is ironic that the internet, which was meant to connect people, has actually broken the bond of face-to-face relationships. An increasing number of youngsters are choosing virtual contacts, both for the anonymity they offer and as an escape from the real world.

Humdrum Existence

A humdrum existence, characterized by a lack of creativity, is a fall-out of the Internet age. The easy availability of information at the click of a button has numbed the need for creativity among the youth. Students no longer apply their minds and discover new approaches to the subject matter at hand, but rather confine themselves to using that which is readily available online.

Cyber Bullying

Cyber bullying refers to the widely prevalent practice of bullying using the Internet. This type of harassment is easier for the perpetuators than physical bullying as there are hardly any regulations and laws to control the menace. Cyber bullying can be so detrimental to mental and psychological health that victims are often driven to acute embarrassment, shame and even suicide in extreme cases.

Time Wasted and Opportunity Lost

Improper use of the internet for watching films, surfing Facebook and playing games, among other things, can be a colossal waste of time. The online betting industry is rumored to have a turnover in excess of billions of dollars, with casino online being a favorite haunt of the youth brigade. According to one study conducted by Stanford University, 12.4% of the participants often stayed online for a longer period of time than intended.

Social Neglect

Excessive use of the internet can lead to social withdrawal and even a break in relationships with near and dear ones in some cases. The tragedy of a couple in Korea is a bone-chilling reminder of this fact. The young couple was so obsessed with their virtual baby that they neglected their real baby to the extent of driving her to hunger, abandonment and eventual death.

Privacy Disrupted

Privacy is a real threat on the internet. It is very common for youngsters to shed their inhibitions in the virtual world, exchange pictures and private information even with total strangers, a behavioral trait that is unimaginable in the real world. Moreover, there is an ever-present threat of stalking and black-mailing, especially in the dark, deep net.

Internet Addiction

The Internet addiction is no less dangerous than other form of addiction. People are known to find it difficult to abstain from the internet for a continuous period of time. An interesting fact is that males are more prone to be addicted to the internet.

The starting point of internet addiction may be a desire to escape from the real world due to parental expectations, bullying, etc. Studies have found positive co-relations between the use of the internet and depression, with people addicted to the internet being more prone to depression in comparison to their normal counterparts.

Cyber Crime

The internet is not a very safe space. The proliferation of illegal websites, unethical content and fraudulent activity online are a fertile ground for criminal activities aka cyber crime. The unhindered growth in computer viruses and malwares can not only attack a computer, but also put its sensitive information at risk. Unethical hacking has become a norm and an individual computer user is often found wanting, in dealing with such formidable adversaries.

The revolutionary technology of the internet has become a defining part of our century and an integral aspect of their daily lives. The internet has no doubt spawned both positives and negative influences on the youth of today. It is our onerous responsibility to use the internet to its full potential, while simultaneously guarding against the pitfalls.

Does an Asian ethnic background make you more susceptible to gambling addiction?

From flashing casinos to poker on the phone, there’s something about gambling that makes it so attractive. Maybe it is the satisfying feeling of being lucky, that the gambler has beat the system and broken the fact that ‘the house always wins’. Maybe it is the lure of easy money that can make one dollar magically transform into $1000 pleasurably, with minimum effort. Or perhaps addiction comes with the rush that gambling offers. Regardless of the underlying reason, the overall is a narcissistic one, as explained by psychologists.

There is a strong link between narcissism and those who are likely to develop a gambling problem. It has to do with “overconfidence, heightened risk acceptance, and myopic focus on reward”. It is a pathological problem that functions similarly to that of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and displays itself in a myriad of symptoms that include but is not limited to committing crimes in order to continue gambling, being distraught when unable to gamble and fantasizing about gambling and past experiences frequently.

Each country and every culture have their own sort of vice. Horse racing in the West and virtual red packets in the East. Back in 2014, China’s WeChat app released a service entitled Hong Bao which translates to red packet or red envelope. It is a customary practice of the Chinese to give monetary gifts during weddings, birthdays and the Lunar New Year, these gifts are traditionally wrapped in red for prosperity. However, this online feature has become abused as the service allows senders to post a red envelop into a group chat and generate a random amount for each user who opens it until the total is spent.

This quickly escalated into a full blown lottery pool, with fairly simple rules: “the group member who receives the least amount of money is required to start the next round by issuing a Hong Bao envelope containing an amount equal to or greater than the amount he/she received”. The member who is allocated the highest amount naturally wins the round.

Over in Japan, gambling takes its form in a machine filled with shiny pellets, bright flashing lights and blaringly happy sounds. It is the pachinko. An estimate of 3.2 million Japanese are addicted to some form of gambling. While technically illegal, it has not stopped close to twelve thousand pachinko parlours to exist in Japan. It is excused from the criminal code due to historical and cultural value, and to discourage its association with gambling, the money is not dispensed at the parlour itself. The player has to exchange their metal pellets for a chip and go to a different building to exchange the chip for currency.

The entrepreneurial South Koreans have discovered the lucrative business of setting up gambling services in Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam and Cambodia as South Korea itself has a strict ban on gambling and have significantly heavier penalties than the aforementioned countries. They take bets not only from their own countrymen, but from Americans and Australians alike.

Problem gamblers are comparatively low in Great Britain, with reports of 600,000 from NHS Choices (National Health Service), UK’s biggest website on health. While it is still a substantial amount, it is significantly lower than their Eastern counterparts. However, they also have their fair share of options through legal horse races, lotteries, casinos and online betting through the likes of NetBet Casino, Slot Boss, and many more.

So are Asians more susceptible to gambling? A report published by Dr. Amritha Soburn-Maharaj, Dr. Fiona Rossen and Ms. Anita Shiu Wei Wong for The Ministry of Health of New Zealand, seems to suggest so. Entitled ‘The Impact of Gambling and Problem Gambling on Asian Families and Communities in New Zealand’, it explores how gambling could put a strain on both the Asian community in the country and the strain on the health services provided.

It is reported that Asians fall prey easily to gambling due to their “cultural beliefs and values such as superstition and luck”, the most susceptible ethnic group being the Chinese, having gambling seemingly integrated into their culture. During the Lunar New Year, houses become gambling dens filled with tables offering mahjong, poker, blackjack and various dice games.

There is an easy fix, according to Science Daily. Simple education will help curb gambling addiction when it comes to digital games. There was a study at University of Wanderloo that educated players on how games disguised losses as wins (LDWs) and players who are aware of such tactics find the whole gambling culture and experience a lot more negative than those who have not been exposed to LDWs. However, this only works on new players as experienced players already has misconceptions deeply embedded in their minds.

With early exposure and proper education on what gambling entails, the research “show a way in which we can lead slots gamblers to have a more realistic view of the gambling experience and possibly prevent problems down the road”.

The problem with the research is that it only works on slot machines; part of the Western world and far from Asian preferences. Therefore, there is reason as to why Asians are more susceptible to gambling: culture, convenience and competition.