The rising number of children and adolescents addicted to the internet is not just an uncanny habit but a compulsive disorder
When Pooja Bharadwaj’s* family, residing in Anna Nagar, began to notice that their 12 year- old daughter was logging onto her computer even when she got up to drink water or go to the toilet at night, they realised there was something wrong with her excessive computer usage. Similarly when the Vishwanathan’s* residing in south Chennai noticed that their 13- year old son, Ajay* hardly ever went out to play with friends but was on the internet all the time, they began to worry.
Situations such as this have become commonplace in Indian cities today with many children spending a large number of their waking hours on their computers. Even though it may not always be the case, symptoms such as this could point to the development of a growing phenomenon among city- slickers in India, which is Internet Addiction Disorder ( IAD). IAD is a condition where an individual compulsively and almost always unproductively, uses the internet and finds any attempt to limit its use distressing. Professor Manju Mehta of AIIMS, New Delhi says, “Internet addiction is on a rise among Indian children. Currently we do not have consolidated data but many parents do approach us due to their wards’ fixation with the internet.”
To re- assert claims by therapists about this rising trend, a 10- city wide survey of by ASSOCHAM in 2010 had revealed that more than 55 percent ( of those surveyed) aged between 8 and 18 where spending an average of five hours on the internet everyday. Therapists say that while excessive internet use does take an adverse toll on the child, it should be kept in mind that, like other addictions, if the child is abruptly cut off from the net, the withdrawal effects might have a worse impact. Pulkit Sharma, Clinical Psychologist, VIMHANS, Delhi says that unlike other addictions IAD is tricky to spot as it is relatively unknown. “IAD among children and teens gets complicated as it also starts spoiling the relationship between them and their parents. The children begin to fear that therapists who they are taken to will act against their best interest as well.” He adds, “The key in treating IAD lies in seeing things from the child's perspective and identifying the root cause.”
Even though there are no specialised deaddiction camps ( like in the US) in India yet, approaching drugs and alcohol deaddiction centers can be a way to deal with IAD. To enquire/ receive treatment and advice on excessive internet usage, you can also approach a recommended clinical psychologist or psychiatrist having an expertise in addiction management. Centers such as NIMHANS in Bangalore, the Chennai Institute of Learning and Development ( CHILD) and the Muktangan rehabilitation center in Pune are also good options. * Names have been changed upon request.