D-DAD centres in Kerala free 232 children from digital addiction

The Kerala Police established D-DAD centres one-and-a-half years ago, in response to the rising concerns over digital addiction among children.
Representative image
Representative image

KOCHI: Asha (name changed), a teenager from Kochi, used to spend countless hours on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Her parents trusted her completely and never monitored her internet usage. It wasn’t until her academic performance and social interactions began to suffer that they realised the severity of the situation. Upon consulting a psychiatrist, they discovered that Asha was struggling with digital addiction as well as physical discomfort like eye strain due to excessive screen time.

A few months on, Asha has now recovered from digital addiction, thanks to the Digital De-Addiction Centre (D-DAD) in Kochi operated by state police, which changed her life for good through counselling and other interventions. Asha’s case, though concerning, is not as serious as that of many of her peers, who got involved in crimes and even ended their life due to excess internet usage.

The Kerala Police established D-DAD centres one-and-a-half years ago, in response to the rising concerns over digital addiction among children. They have successfully counselled and rehabilitated 232 children, helping them return to a balanced life. The centres employ psychologists, counsellors, and are equipped with child-friendly tools. Their approach includes interactive education, device-free retreats, and scientifically supported diversion techniques.

Six D-DAD centres are operational, one each in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Kozhikode, and Kannur. Currently, 86 children are receiving counselling from experts at these centres. According to officials, parents of children from the age of 10 have approached D-DAD centres seeking help.

Police plan to start more D-DAD centres

ADGP Manoj Abraham, who oversees the centres, expressed optimism about the programme’s expansion. “After assessing their success and identifying areas for improvement, we plan to open these centres in all districts in the state,” said Manoj Abraham. Besides behavioural issues, digital addiction can lead young people to various illegal activities.

According to the data from the home department, legal action has been taken against 19 children, classifying them as Children in Conflict with the Law (CCL), for involvement in illegal activities such as sexual exploitation and drug trade, all of which were driven by digital addiction.

Between 2021 and May 31, 2024, as many as 24 children died by suicide in the state due to addiction to mobile phones or the internet.

Dr C J John, a Kochi-based psychiatrist, said digital addiction among youth is on the rise in our increasingly digital world. “In addition to digital detox centres, we need to cultivate a healthy digital culture. This should be promoted in schools and homes,” he said.

“With no proper digital culture at homes, even adults are getting hooked to devices addiction,” he said.

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The New Indian Express