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Uttar Pradesh Introduces Medical Clinics to Help Children Rid of Digital Addiction

The Allahabad Centre got over 15 patients, mostly school children, on the inaugural day itself

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digital addiction
"Parents should take children on weekend holidays or any other such activity which keeps them away from the gadgets," she suggested. Pixabay

Digital addiction among children is emerging as a major problem in the modern world and also a reason for adolescent behavioural issues. Comparable to problems like kleptomania or compulsive gambling, doctors have identified the impulse control disorder and the WHO has termed it ‘gaming disorder’.

Three medical centres have come up in Uttar Pradesh to help children get rid of the cell phone obsession. The Institute of Medical Sciences at BHU in Varanasi launched its mobile phone de-addiction cell in January this year while in March, King George’s Medical University (KGMU) in Lucknow started the clinic to check “problematic use of technology”.

The third clinic was launched this week at the Moti Lal Nehru Divisional Hospital in Allahabad. The Allahabad Centre got over 15 patients, mostly school children, on the inaugural day itself.

Dr Rakesh Paswan, who heads the clinic, said, “We are the first government hospital to start a mobile phone de-addiction centre. In the eleventh revision of WHO’s International Classification of Diseases, a condition called impulse control disorder is being elaborated upon.

mobile phone obsession
He added that since most of the children belonged to influential politicians and officials, the school could not take strict action. Pixabay

“The final draft has included internet addiction as a sub-type of impulse control disorder, which is comparable to problems like kleptomania or compulsive gambling.” Paswan said that impulse control disorder is defined as the failure to resist a temptation or an impulse.

In Lucknow, Professor P.K. Dalal, the head of psychiatry at KGMU, which runs the technology overuse clinic, said the problem of addiction to internet was on the rise. “Since the launch of the clinic, we have seen more than 120 patients. Cell phone overuse is at the root of a number of behavioural issues among children and the problem is that parents do not realize this,” he said.

Meenal Arora, founder director of Shemford and Shemrock group of schools, said: “Digital Addiction is highest in children because they are still at the stages of brain development and too much exposure to digital stimulation make them dependent on it. This addiction has recently been termed as the ‘gaming disorder’ by the World Health Organization.”

She further added that very young kids should not be given any access to mobile phones and computers as their usage may hamper their cognitive development and cause permanent damage to their young, developing minds. Children should be engaged in other activities and encouraged to pursue a hobby of their interest. Parents have to be positive role models for their children and should plan a day every week as Digital Detox Day.

digital addiction
Paswan said that impulse control disorder is defined as the failure to resist a temptation or an impulse. Pixabay

The principal of a local English -medium school said that more than the children, the parents were responsible for encouraging mobile addiction.

“We have clear instructions that children cannot bring mobile phones to school but most of the kids manage to smuggle the phones in. Where do they get these smart phones? Why do parents buy these expensive phones for children? In some cases, we confiscated the phone but the parents never turned up to claim the same,” said the principal.

He added that since most of the children belonged to influential politicians and officials, the school could not take strict action. Psychiatrists say that phone addiction is causing serious behavioural changes in the young generation. Deaths due to the games like Blue Whale, PUBG and the recent TikTok videos are example of this.

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“Children are becoming anti-social. They do not make friends and do not play outdoor games. Their communication with family members is getting lower which is weakening family relationships,” said Rati Misra, a psychologist. She said that initial symptoms of digital addiction can easily be identified.

She suggested that parents should start a two-day ‘digital detox’ for children during which they are not allowed to use their phones or computers. “Parents should take children on weekend holidays or any other such activity which keeps them away from the gadgets,” she suggested. (IANS)

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Here’s How You can Fight Your Digital Addiction

Vohra suggested that when parents realise that their child is spending too much time on screen, it is very important first to have a dialogue with the kid and ask them to cut down on media consumption

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TikTok has over 54 million monthly active users (MAUs) in India. Pixabay

Digital addiction is real and it could be as dangerous as drug addiction, warned psychiatrists while outlining practical ways to fight the urge to use gadgets non-stop both among children and adults.

The warning came following reports of a 24-year-old mother committing suicide last week in Tamil Nadu after she was prevented from using TikTok and a 16-year-old student from Madhya Pradesh suffering a major cardiac arrest and losing his life after playing PUBG for six straight hours last month.

The key to fighting digital addiction is to realise the problem when someone develops it, the experts said.

Parikh also recommended that adults should undergo a four hours of “digital detox” every week – a period when they do not use their phone or any gadget.

“If one finds it difficult to go through those four hours then there is a problem which needs to be addressed,” he said.

People who are addicted to using gadgets, tend to get “withdrawal symptoms” in the form of always thinking about that them, or becoming irritable with disturbed sleep when they try to stop using their devices, said Sandeep Vohra, Senior Consultant, Psychiatry, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi.

“Digital addiction is as bad as addiction to any other drug. So if you are hit by digital addiction, the signs are that you actually tend to go off your normal routine life. You are always dependent and on the screen,” Vohra told IANS.

Such people can neglect personal hygiene and their own self. They also tend to stop interacting with the society, with their family members and stop thinking about their responsibilities or stop doing their day-to-day chores.

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Some players claimed to have received the reminder within an hour and a half of playing the game. Wikimedia Commons

“One can have clinical depression, anxiety, obsessive symptoms, insomnia, irritability, and difficulty in concentrating on other things.

“And you can have in rare cases, when one becomes over-dependent, psychosis. So you have to be aware of all this and it can be very challenging if you don’t realise that you are going into addiction,” Vohra added.

It is not just adults who are vulnerable to digital addiction as use of smartphones and other gaming devices have become common among children.

But do we know when a child starts showing signs of addiction and when to seek help?

The experts suggested that parents should be alarmed when they notice that a child’s ability to live life normally has got affected and they lash out badly when digital access is denied.

“Parents need to be good role models. If parents spend too much time on digital gadgets then children learn and follow by example. Encourage children to be social and develop hobbies,” Parikh said.

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“If you keep focusing your child’s attention on indoor activities there are higher chances of him/her becoming digitally addicted. Therefore encourage him/her to play sports or meet friends and family. Reading is also a great way to combat boredom if indoors,” he added.

Vohra suggested that when parents realise that their child is spending too much time on screen, it is very important first to have a dialogue with the kid and ask them to cut down on media consumption.

“If they feel that either the child is not responding the way they want, or if they feel that the child is trying to tell them lies and still using time on screen, then it’s better to consult a mental health professional,” Vohra informed. (IANS)