Growing trend of internet addiction among children
When Pooja’s* family, residing in Satellite town, Ahmedabad, began to notice that their 12 yearold 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 Patel’s* residing in Alkapuri in Vadodara 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 internet usage distressing. Vadodara based clinical psychologist, Dr Ronak Pandit, says, “One of our patients was a six year old boy who kept looking at zoo animals for hours at a stretch on the internet which became a matter of concern for his parents. He had to undergo almost four months of counselling.”
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.” 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 counselling and management. Centers such as Kripa Foundation in Vadodara, Sterling Hospital and Dr. Bhimani’s Healthy Mind Clinic in Ahmedabad and VIMHANS, New Delhi are good options to get help. * Names have been changed upon request. With inputs from Devika Chaturvedi.