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Coalition calls for more research on Internet addiction

An E-Safety Commissioner would invite research on Internet addiction and other academic research on online safety.

Liberal MP Paul Fletcher has again called for the creation of a Children’s E-Safety Commissioner to deal with Internet addiction.

The commissioner would invite research on Internet addiction and other academic research on online safety. It would also assess and certify online safety programs in schools.

“The Internet game Runnescape has been identified in media reports as creating addictive behaviour by some of its users. One mother has told of her son playing the game on average 16 hours a day – and sometime up to 25 hours at a stretch,” he said in a statement.

“The Coalition’s Online Safety Working Group has found that a surprisingly large amount is unknown about the impact of ‘Internet immersion’ on the health and well-being of children.”

The Coalition’s Online Safety Working Group Discussion Paper was released in November 2012 and suggested the government could work with the Internet and communications industry to respond to problems such as online harassment and bullying through social media.

It is calling for comment on proposals such as introducing branding on phones to convey whether they are appropriate for children or not.

“Psychiatrists and psychologists to whom we spoke highlighted concerns about Internet addiction. The issue of whether Internet addiction is a mental illness is one that the medical community are debating,” Fletcher said.

Last week Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced new guidelines for handling complaints on social media, which the government has dubbed the ‘protocol’ [PDF].

Submissions to the discussion paper close 29 March, 2013.

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