WHO study shows Finnish teenage boys as heavy computer users
Internet addiction cited as cause for interrupting and deferring military service
A cross-national World Health Organisation study carried out in 2002 and published in June shows that around 20% of Finnish boys between the ages of 13 and 15 spend more than three hours a day at the computer. The figures for "heavy user" girls in the same age-group are only between 2% and 3%. In terms of the large gender difference, Finland was among the most striking examples in the entire study.
Boys tend to spend their time playing games, while girls are more likely to be found in chatrooms or exchanging e-mails. What is common to both is that those who use the computer most each day are primarily getting only entertainment or excitement out of it, and rarely actually create anything new themselves while at the keyboard.
Some 5,400 Finnish schoolkids took part in the survey, out of a total of 162,000 children and young people in 30 countries worldwide.
Even if Finnish boys seem to figure prominently in the listings, Finland was behind a great many other countries in the international comparisons. Estonia, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark all showed higher rates of PC-use on weekdays and at weekends, with Estonian boys of 13 claiming that one in three of them spent more than three hours every day glued to the display monitor.
A few years down the road, the heavy users are showing up increasingly often in the statistics of the Finnish Defence Forces, as some conscripts have to interrupt or defer their national service for “Internet addiction”.
This is not regarded as a prima facie cause for interrupting military service, but is part of a package of reasons that suggest the conscript is not mature enough to serve. Officers have cited a lack of social skills among such candidates, with an attendant inability to cope with garrison life and rigid routines.
Going into the army is a natural crunch-point for someone whose lifestyle has revolved around the Net and perhaps even involves living on another time-zone, for example that of U.S.-based message boards and chatrooms, says Teuvo Peltoniemi of the A-Clinic Foundation.
Internet addiction is no different from other forms of substance abuse or even pathological gambling, in that it presupposes a loss of control. Apparently a few percent of Finns suffer from this complaint.
Those weeded out by the system do not avoid national service altogether, but get so-called "E-papers" requiring them to come back in a year or two to do their service.
WHO: Health behaviour in school-aged children