Facebook and smartphone addiction can be seen around the world. But in Asian countries such as Singapore, these addictions are becoming so extreme that broadband networks are unable to keep up with the demand. Find out here if you might be suffering from smartphone addiction.

smartphone addiction singapore

Singapore is getting ready to release a fourth mobile broadband carrier in an effort to keep up with the demands that Facebook and smartphone addiction have created. Mobile data traffic has increased significantly and consumers want faster download speeds and more value for their money.

Adding a new carrier to the competition will mean lower prices and better service. Unlimited data packages may also be in the works, a welcome option for many consumers who currently have more than one internet subscription to keep up with their use. Adding a fourth carrier will mean Singapore has more mobile carrier options than both China and Japan, countries with much higher populations. However, given the small land area and pre-existing infrastructure in Singapore, the cost of adding another network is cheaper than it would be for larger countries.

Why does a Nation of only 5.5 Million People need all this Mobile Data?

Singapore has the highest rate of smartphone penetration in the world with almost 9 out of 10 Singaporeans utilising smartphones. Not only that, Singapore has become a mobile first nation, which means that people are accessing the internet more frequently through their smartphones than computers. For about 16% of internet users in Singapore, their only means of accessing the internet is through a smartphone.

Other Asian countries are not far behind, and many others in Southeast Asia are also mobile only and mobile first internet users. After Singapore, Korea has the second highest smartphone penetration rate in the world. In Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, China and Korea,  the percentage of people who have smartphones is greater than those with computers — a trend that is not found in any Western countries.

While most would say that smartphones are an indispensable and valuable piece of technology for leisure and work, there are concerns about the consequences of excessive reliance on smartphones.

Smartphone Addiction is a Serious Concern

While the term addiction can get thrown around loosely these days, smartphone addiction in Singapore and across Asia is becoming a serious concern. Psychiatrists in Singapore are pushing for digital addictions such as internet and smartphone addiction to be formally recognised. In China, there are already 300 technology addiction treatment centres for youth, and other countries including Singapore are setting up digital addiction treatment centres and cyber-wellness programme to help prevent unhealthy attachment and addiction to smartphones.

A recent survey reveals just how addicted Singaporeans are to their devices. The survey results were compared to results in Australia to get a better picture about Singapore’s smartphone use trends. It found that 84% of smartphone users in Singapore sleep with their device in reach, and almost half (47%) check their phones when they wake up in the middle of the night. This is compared to 69% and 29% respectively in Australia.

Further, 91% of people see their connected devices as a source of happiness yet 76% also found technology to be a source of stress. This highlights the love/hate relationship many experience with their smartphones — similar to the conflicting relationship many people with drug and alcohol abuse problems experience.

When it comes to Facebook, another survey found that Singaporeans spend twice as much time per session on Facebook than Americans. According to Tan Hwee Sim, a Psychiatrist at The Resilienz Mind clinic in Singapore, in the past few years there has been a shift from obsession with online video games to Facebook addiction and social media obsessions in her young adult clients.

Smartphone addiction is not a concern unique to Singapore. In Hong Kong, a video recently went viral of a woman wailing in agony when her smartphone battery died on her morning commute. The video highlights the reality of how much impact these devices can have on our mental health and wellbeing.

If the internet and smartphones truly are addictive and can contribute to mental, emotional, and social problems, then the young age at which many people are using the devices is a concern. In Singapore, cyber-wellness education programmes are being developed for preschool children and their parents in order to help prevent future problems.

Smartphone Addiction and Children

In South Korea, a recent survey found that 72% of children own a smartphone by age 12 and they spend a whopping average of 5.4 hours a day on their smartphones. As a result, 25% of the children are thought to have a smartphone addiction, and the study, which will be published in 2016, found stress to be an important risk factor for addiction.

For some vulnerable children and young adults, their smartphone may become the only way they can connect to the outside world. In some Asian societies where students spend most hours of the day studying and completing time consuming homework, their smartphones become the only way to connect with friends and find humour, so the device takes on a disproportionate amount of importance which could lead to a smartphone addiction.

According to Chong Ee-Jay, manager of Touch Cyber Wellness Centre in Singapore, young people do not have the level of maturity needed to set limits when it comes to their smartphone use. He goes on to say he has serious concerns about how young people react when they get phones. This video of a baby’s attachment to her parent’s smartphone is one frightening real life example of what can happen when children are exposed to smartphones at an early age.

Trisha Lin, an assistant professor in communications at the Nanyang Technological University agrees with Chong Ee-Jay, and says that parents should avoid giving children smartphones or tablets to keep them quiet. She says it is similar to concerns over setting TV limits for children in the past, except now it is worse because most people carry the screens everywhere they go.

Do you have a Smartphone Addiction?

The following questions can help you determine if your smartphone use is out of control and negatively impacting your life and relationships:

  • Are you constantly checking your phone for no reason?
  • Do you feel anxious and restless at the thought of being away from your phone?
  • Do you ever avoid social interaction in favour of spending time on your phone?
  • Do you wake up in the middle of the night to check your phone?
  • Has time spent on your phone negatively impacted your academic or work performance?
  • Are you easily distracted by email or smart apps?

Smartphone addiction and internet addiction are closely related and often go hand in hand. They are types of what we call process addictions and some people suffering from this type of addiction require help to get their life back on track towards wellness. The Cabin Singapore offers comprehensive process addiction treatment at its outpatient addiction treatment centre. If you or someone you love is struggling, contact us for a phone consultation today.

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