Internet Addiction Disorder and its effects

In the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), Internet Gaming Disorder is the latest term to describe this problem.

Internet Addiction Disorder and its effects

New Year is round the corner. Time to set new goals, renew old commitments and step towards stronger mutual relations. Whole world is pepping up for the occasion. The most anxious are the kids who seek fun and frolic on all occasions. And, why wouldn’t they? Childhood is meant to celebrate!! Happy Childhood lead to a Happy World!! To boost children’s festive spirits, their schools too have added to their contentment by announcing winter break.

So, the mood is set. Parents too are ready to provide their off springs with an opportunity to rejoice. But, do kids really want anything other than ‘the liberty to have access to different electronic gadgets and internet usage today?’

Isn’t the whole new generation who is much smarter, quicker and better in terms of understanding and grasping the cyber progression, alarmingly getting slower, frustrated, irritated and less focused in its day to day activities? Isn’t this ‘early exposure’ to internet affecting their personality development? Aren’t these kids becoming insecure and incomplete for mere ‘want’ and ‘need’ of ‘more’?

Reeta (name changed) is a house maid. Not very long ago, on her demand, her employer gave her a smartphone as a Diwali gift. The other day, she insisted on a prepaid sim card too. When inquired about the reason, she told that her kids were fond of online video games!! She herself couldn’t afford to fulfill their demands hence had requested the gentle lady to do the needful. After a few days, Reeta told her employer that her teen aged daughter had absconded with a man who had lured her first via social media website, promised to marry and help her become an actress, even developed physical relations with her.

The housemaid was nervous because her friend’s daughter too had run away from home with a man who later sold her off to some goons, resulting in her torture and humiliation through various trafficking channels till she was recovered from an NGO. Later, adding to her woes, her obscene pictures too went viral. Result?? She ended her life!!

Saurabh (name changed) has always been a topper. His parents always made sure never to expose him to the ‘distracting’ internet world!! Always a book-worm, the boy grew up as a genius, got admission in one of the top Engineering Institutes in India. Away from home, he got an ‘interesting introduction and exposure’ to the web-world, interfering with his tight study schedule and isolation not only from his friends and family, but the whole world too. It took him to the level of a condition called Internet addiction disorder, more commonly called Problematic Internet Use (PIU) which refers to excessive computer use which interferes with daily life.

Problematic Internet use is also called Compulsive Internet Use (CIU), Internet overuse, problematic computer use, or pathological computer use or Internet addiction disorder. In the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), Internet Gaming Disorder is the latest term to describe this problem. got an opportunity to discuss and understand this murky, but quite relevant issue with Psychologist-Counsellor at Central Board of Secondary Education(CBSE), Dr Kumud Srivastava, who came out with quite shocking and grave revelations as the effects of internet exposure to children.

Excerpts from the conversation with Dr Srivastava:

Q. Does Internet overuse and constant exposure to the web world really leave any effect on children, teenagers and youth?

Yes, apart from poor eye-sight, spine related problems due to wrong posture and finger sensation disorders, there are various significant psychological effects of PIU not only on children, teenagers and youth, but also on adults as well. But, children are more prone to fall victim to it because they are innocent and don’t understand the pros and cons of certain activities.

Q. What are the significant effects? What are the symptoms?

There is a sharp effect on Attention, Vigilance, Memory and Creativity. For example, if you give instructions to such kids, most of the instructions they fail to catch. It happens because they are not attentive. They are not able to remember instructions because there is an obstruction in memorising them. And that obstruction is created by that ‘fantasy world’ which distracts them, isolates them and takes them away from the real world and real relations. Such kids lose interest in everything, and further goes into depression.

Another sharp effect falls on their writing skill. They write text messages in short and slang language. It not only destroys their vocabulary, writing skill, but also their speaking skill.

Their concentration and metabolism are affected because they tend to sleep late, hence wake up late. 85% of the kids go to school without defecation. They are not fresh in the morning, so naturally they have poor metabolism and concentration. They are mostly irritable, tend to feel alone because they have only ‘online friends’ to communicate with. They find it difficult to mingle with others face to face. In some cases, the effect is even bed-wetting. They become secretive about their internet usage and websites.

Exposure to physical and sexual relations is not considered taboo to them because whatever they watch online seems real to them. Hence, even school children sometimes get involved in such acts which not only dampen their proper physical growth, but also their overall personality development. All their focus shift towards such activities interfering with their normal day to day routine and career building process.

Children tend to get addicted to it. Withdrawal symptoms are very serious too, for e.g. loss of appetite, loneliness, irregular diet. Sometimes, it becomes necessary to send the victims to rehab centres.

In some cases, the effects are so dangerous, severe and serious in nature that even cost precious lives of innocent victims, who fall prey to cyber thugs and hooligans.

Q. Why does it affect?

There is a phrase that it is not advisable to possess something before time. There is a ‘right time’ for everything. But unfortunately, reverse is happening these days. Children and youth are exposed to certain activities, actions and facts which are not advisable for them. It is completely not their fault. Here actually, it is cyber world which should be held responsible. There are certain adult pop-ups which appear on the screen whilst an online game or chatting. That creates curiosity among them and they get exposed to those contents much before their understanding of that fact or action. Sometimes, they get attracted to those activities and fall prey to the consequences.

Moreover, lack of communication between a child and parents is a major factor which brings an innocent life to such a big trouble. There was a case in Patna where a working mother had a traumatic experience. She had two children, a boy in grade 7 and a girl in grade 2. One day the shocked mother came to us with a very serious problem. Her daughter had complained about having an unnatural intimacy with her sibling in absence of their mother. The case was very sensitive in every manner so we had to handle it very sensibly and carefully.

Q. How can we deal with this problem? Is this curable?

Communication is the key. When you expect a counsellor to understand your child in half an hour, can’t you understand your own progeny? Talk to your kids, counsel them, love them, pamper them, play with them, spend quality time with them and share mutual thoughts openly. Parents today are busy with their own lives and gadgets. It is my humble request to be aware of your child and understand your child. Communication can heal.