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IN KENYA, INTERNET ADDICTION BEATS DRUGS AND ALCOHOL ABUSE

Kenyans more addicted to the internet than drugs or alcohol?

Over the years we have seen a rapid increase in the number of Kenyans who access the internet. This is mainly due to the fact that the internet has become cheaper and easier to subscribe to, with the mobile internet being the major contributor of the increase in internet usage. Internet has changed the dynamics of communication and it is one of the top tools for socialisation among its users. Not only does it exist in the urban areas but also in the rural setup thus reducing the gap between the two in terms of advancement in communication technology.

According to the latest reports by CCK on internet service released in September 2011, the number of internet users was estimated at 8.69 million, the number of internet/data subscriptions is 3.2 million and broadband subscriptions increased from 18,626 subscribers in the previous quarter to 84,726. A whopping 90+% of the growth of internet traffic in Kenya is done via mobile operators, meaning 3G, Edge or GPRS.

Although this can be received as good news, the net has also brought with it a new “disease”, condition or complaint, called “internet addiction”. It is taken as a serious issue as it appeared to be a stronger addiction that drugs and alcohol abuse. According to the chairperson of the Kenya Counseling Association, Catherine Gachutha, Internet addiction is rapidly increasing in Kenya. The problem, she says, is most prominent in young people aged between 18 and 28. She further pointed out that the factors leading to this fact could be that most young people are idle and that the internet is cheaper than alcohol and drugs.

The most addictive sites revolve around pornography, entertainment, online relationship sites and top of the list are the social networking sites like Facebook,

Social networking sites most addictive...?

Twitter, Badoo and LinkedIn.

Experts worry that there are increasing cases of internet pornography addiction in Kenya especially among  young people who view explicit materials on their mobile phones and computers. Mr. William Gituru of Amani Counseling Centre and Training Institute in Nairobi thinks it is becoming a huge problem in Kenya, but few people are willing to talk about it including the victims, parents and teachers.

Heavy internet use also, it is claimed, contributes to the long list of health risks such as high blood pressure and depression among others. In an article written in the DN2 magazine of the Daily Nation by Harry Misiko, he talked about Mr. Alex Gakuru a 35-year-old IT consultant who was diagnosed with high blood pressure caused by his love for the Internet. “Every time something happened and my Internet connection failed, I would get agitated. I had a lot to catch up on. I was unsettled, was short breath, got easily worked up, and had trouble sleeping. I experienced mild nose bleeding for the first time in my life. I felt totally misplaced in this world,” said Mr. Gakuru.

Spending too much time at your computer is bad for your health!

Mr Gakuru’s case is indeed a sad one, but could it be that the inactivity of his job, ie. sitting in front of a PC screen, day in, and day out, rather than just his addiction, be at the root of his ill-health?. After all a lack of exercise is a well known and major contributor to high blood pressure and poor sleeping habits.

The internet is a great platform for learning, entertainment and socializing, as we know, and, as with the other media can be used in a positive way (like the publication of the Kenyaforum!) or in less palatable ways such as the spread of pornography. But we hasten to add that pornographic images have been around since the beginning of time, and are not just a facet of the modern internet. The Turin Erotic Papyrus, dubbed the ‘mens magazine’ of its time in Egypt dates to the Ramesside period (1292-1075BCE), wall paintings and carvings found in Pompeii (CE 79) were of the most lurid and graphic nature, and the famous Indian book of erotica, the Karma Sutra was written during the first couple of centuries CE.

Do we now blame the stonemasons for creating walls (which can be painted on) or Gutenberg for creating a printing press which allowed mass circulation of lewd material…or John Logie Baird for inventing the television with its (now) pay to view porn channels…?? We hope you are getting the point.

The internet, just like a TV or a piece of paper or an ancient Roman wall, is just the vehicle which carries the message. At the Forum we question whether its the internet in itself which is the problem, as suggested above, or whether its the content which it gives access to. In publishing one of the oldest saying is that “best sellers sell best”, maybe the huge uptake in the social networking sites, dating sites and pornography sites just reflects this old adage?

Remember also, that not everyone who drinks is an alcoholic!

If any reader feels worried about the amount of time they spend on the internet please write and let us know about your concerns

President Kenyatta declared winner.

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