Wednesday, April 1, 2015


There were times I felt I was spending too much time browsing the internet. The internet, after all, has countless material I can use to make my classes more interesting for my students here in Suzhou, China.
I never used the internet to play online computer games like many do here and elsewhere around the world. In recent months, I learned that there is a growing number of computer addicts in China who are addicted to online computer games.

According to ‘China Youth Association for Network Development’ over 30% of china’s population find their internet use problematic, and more than half of China’s internet users between the age of 35 and under are “obsessed” with online games.
Many of China’s parents are now paying about $3,000 USD total to send kids to Internet Addiction boot camps. On average young adults in China spend 3.2 hours a day online, mainly playing online games and on instant messaging. The Chinese Government in 2014 declared online addiction as the number one health risk for China’s youth.

Online gaming can indeed be dangerous to your health as proven recently. A Chinese video-game addict dropped dead from stress and exhaustion after playing “Legend of Mir II” for 20 hours in an Internet cafe in Chengdu. Two secondary school students in Chongqing were also killed. Exhausted after two days of online gaming they were both killed by a train when they fell asleep on railroad tracks. In Tianjin, a 13-year-old boy after a 36-hour session of World of Warcraft—leaped off the roof of his 24-story building, hoping to “join the heroes of the game.”

My students ask me all the time what video games I enjoy playing? I tell them that I never played a video game online and I never had the interest to play. Some of my students will play games online with total strangers from all over the world. I find that quite intriguing but like I said it was never 'my cup of tea.'

The internet surly makes my life and perhaps billions of other people’s lives throughout the world, much easier. We can buy countless products online and gain information on any topic instantly with just the click of a computer mouse.

I can also call just about anyone throughout the world who has a mobile or land-line phone via Skype. This sort of technology did not exist in my youth filled days and most people, today, especially people my student’s age are clueless as to what the world was like prior to our existing technology.

Our modern internet has also made my teaching much easier. I can now store all of my lesson plans onto a 128 Gig thumb drive. My students can then load my lesson plans onto their thumb drives for review.

When I was the age of most of my students - I never imagined that text books in the future would be digitized. Students can now load all of their text books onto an iPad. Those days of lugging your text books to class are long gone and that to me is certainly a good thing.

Today’s technology is only a shadow of what’s to come and like I said many times before 'I can’t even imagine where technology will be when my students are my age.'

There is now talk of an internet in the very near future that will most likely be artificially intelligent. I think that is the only logical direction the internet can go. Perhaps the internet of the future will become the ultimate tutor for those future struggling students. That is if their parents can get them away from the video games.

Internet addiction is no laughing matter and it's just as debilitating as any other addiction. But internet addiction seems more problematic in Asian countries than in America. Neurol-scientists have been studying the effects internet addiction has on the brain. What they discovered is that video game addiction has similar chemical reactions in the brain as someone who is addicted to sex.

Scientists have also discovered that the chemical reactions in the brain become intoxicating for both the sex addict and the chronic video game user. There are medications now being developed to help the addict overcome their compulsion to play video games for hours on end.

I tell my students quite often that the future of technology will continue to evolve. But the technology in our lives can be good or bad depending on the hands that are using it.

The overall future of technology does look brighter to me but I suppose only time will tell …….
    Always with love from Suzhou, China
    Thomas F O’Neill
    U.S. voice mail: (800) 272-6464
    China Cell: 011-86-15114565945
    Skype: thomas_f_oneill
    Other articles, short stories, and commentaries by Thomas F. O'Neill can be found on his award winning blog, Link:

    Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

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