Cy­ber Ob­ses­sion

In­ter­net ad­dic­tion is be­com­ing a com­pul­sive dis­or­der among chil­dren and ado­les­cents


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 these 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 were 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 the ther­a­pists who they are taken to will act against their best in­ter­ests 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 re­ceive treat­ment and ad­vice on ex­ces­sive in­ter­net us­age, ap­proach a rec­om­mended clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist or psy­chi­a­trist hav­ing an ex­per­tise in ad­dic­tion man­age­ment. Cen­ters such as LH Hi­ranan­dani Hospi­tal at Powai, In­sti­tute for Psy­cho­log­i­cal Health at Thane, BYL Nair Hospi­tal and Muk­tan­gan re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ter in Pune are good op­tions. * Names have been changed upon re­quest.

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