14-year-old Abhimanyu (name changed) quit school and studies after his parents refused to allow him to play Internet games. Another 14-year-old Ridhima turns violent every time her mother takes her cell phone. These two are not isolated cases, but just two common examples of how school kids are behaving these days. Internet addiction is taking dangerous proportions and kids as young as eight-year-olds are facing serious psychiatric issues due to this.
Psychiatrists say that they get about 3-4 cases of internet addiction in a month, between the age group of 8 to 18 years. The number increases before the exam time. It is not just Internet addiction but the aftermath of it that bothers psychiatrists. Such children not only fare badly in their academic performance (and in extreme case fail) but most Internet addicts suffer from depression, anxiety and even substance abuse, they say.
In a recent study, researchers from Cardiff University in Britain found that 72% of children 895% of adolescents have at least one device in their room, and most use it near bedtime. Sleep is crucial for kids’ development and lack of it has adverse effects on their physical and mental health, it says. “Though there have been no official studies in India as such, we see the trend rising here too,” says Noida-based psychiatrist Dr Manu Tiwari.
“Parents often complaint about their kids spending a lot of time on computers or cell phones at the cost of their food, sleep and studies,” he says. Psychiatrists classify Internet addiction into three kinds. One is Gaming Addiction (a person is hooked to a game), the second is Problematic Internet Use (in which a person is not able to control his/her urge to use Internet). When the Problematic Internet Use becomes serious it becomes an Internet Addiction Disorder, and that is when it needs both psychotherapy and medicines.
“Those who are addicted to Internet often suffer from low self-esteem. Many times they have other underlying disorders like depressive disorder which need to be treated first. Some have social anxieties and find it difficult to converse with real people so they live in virtual world wherein they can hide their identity. Such children are often in bad mood and lack concentration and hence can’t study leading to poor results,” says Delhi-based psychiatrist Dr Sumit Gupta. “The social networking sites work as virtual class rooms, where undercurrents of classroom like proposing, chatting and bullying all happen. Most children are hooked to these,” he adds.
What can you do as a parent to arrest this addiction?
Limit the time a child can spend on Internet. Tell your kids that Internet is a tool, not the be-all and end-all of life.
Divert your kids towards physical activities and encourage them to develop hobbies. Both these play an important role in personality development.
Monitor the behavior of your children. Encourage them to meet real people.
Desist from giving in to all their demands.
For Problematic Internet Use counseling is very important. Psychiatrists give Cognitive Behavourial Therapy to wean a child away from the Internet. Though a time-consuming process, it is very effective.
In case of Internet Addiction Disorder, both medication and counseling are required. It is treated like any other addiction. Medicines depend on underlying situation.