Front Psychol. 2019 Nov 1;10:2468. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02468.
Internet gaming disorder and risky online behavior (e.g., cyberbullying, exposure to online violent content) have emerged as serious problems in the digital age. Prevalence rates range from 4% to 40% across the globe, with Asia being one of the hardest-hit regions. To address these pressing problems, our team designed the Wise IT-use (WIT) program, a universal prevention program that (a) enhances students’ awareness of Internet gaming disorder and an array of common risky online behaviors, and (b) equips them with sufficient knowledge to handle such problems. The WIT program design was based on gamification principles and flow theory to enhance users’ motivation and learning experience. A program evaluation study was conducted to assess the social impact of this program in mitigating symptoms of Internet gaming disorder and risky online behavior, and in bolstering emotional well-being. The participants were 248 students aged 7 to 13 from four primary schools in various regions of Hong Kong. They completed validated questionnaires 1 month before and 2 months after participating in the program to evaluate changes in their symptoms of Internet gaming disorder, the frequency with which they displayed risky online behaviors, and their ratings of emotional well-being across the period. The results revealed that both the symptoms of Internet gaming disorder and the proportion of students at risk of the disorder were reduced after the program. The changes observed in students were related to higher levels of positive affect and lower levels of negative affect. Evidence from this study indicates that Internet gaming disorder and risky online behavior are detrimental to the emotional well-being of Hong Kong primary school students. More importantly, the findings demonstrate that our newly developed WIT program can have a social impact in successfully mitigating the symptoms of Internet gaming disorder and enhancing emotional well-being over time. The implications of these findings for the program’s broader impact on society and culture are discussed.
KEYWORDS: gaming addiction; internet gaming disorder; prevention program evaluation; problematic internet use; risky online behavior; social impact; universal strategy