When Kamal Iyer (name changed) went to the US to study, his family was certain of him doing well. However, over a period of time, a letter from the university shook the family. Kamal had been missing lectures and it was a warning of him losing a semester. The desire to be on different apps ended with him spending more time on his electronic gadgets than studies.
Clinical psychologist Dr Seema Hingorrany, who treated Kamal, said that it started with chatting and he slowly caught on to gaming. “It made him lose out on the time he had to devote to his projects. Slowly, things started to pile up and he was unable to cope up with his course work. It led to losing focus and interest in goals. Kamal got depressed and came back home. He is much better now and applying again,” she said.
Digital Detox campaign | FPJ
In the case of Rohan Kripal (name changed), he lost out on studies after Class 10. “The lockdown got him into gadget mode and he moved to social media and gaming. He would be on his mobile through the night, leading to sleep deprivation,” said Pratima Bhandarkar, mental health professional who counsels at Responsible Netism, an organisation that works toward cyber and mental wellness and cyber safety. Rohan’s parents approached Netism for a solution to his addiction. He fought with his parents and his mood changed when they raised the issue of his studies.
It has been nearly two years since a break in his studies and things have not fully gone back to normal on the education front. Bhandarkar said things came to such a pass that he would be anxious on what to say when he met someone, and his vocabulary suffered.
In the case of Sonam Mehra (name changed), social media became her refuge owing to family problems. Bhandarkar said that Sonam is just 12 and gets very angry and violent if the mobile is taken away from her.
Dr Hingorrany said she has several cases where physical and emotional personality, besides career and academic prospects, have suffered. She said relations also end up in divorce due to decreasing disconnect, and they have also come across cases of debts due to loan. “One needs to understand that gadgets cannot be a resource. They do not give physical strength that an outdoor physical sport does nor concentration that book reading gives,” she said. Bhandarkar said in the case of one Class 10 child, he wanted to be a gamer. “So we also talked about animation. The idea is to talk about activities that stem from them so that they stay interested and look forward to them,” she said.
These approaches, said Sonali Patankar, founder and CEO of Responsible Netism, are divided into preventive and curative. Preventive being educating and awareness, while curative is about psychological (both offline and online) support and hospitalisation, if needed.
Pataknar, who is a senior counsellor, said that much of this depends on acceptance and at what point in time people contact them. “When parents bring their child to us, there is a lot of reluctance in the child. There are a lot of issues manifesting from internet addiction. The problem largely is when they are alone. We understood through a survey that children understand when they are addicted. There’s also acknowledgment of the effect on studies. The larger issue is acceptance among parents,” she said.
She said the problem is often brushed under the carpet, with parents saying it will be better over time. “The issue aggravates to such an extent that there is absolute disruption with everyone being affected. Hence parental acceptance (of the problem), awareness and knowledge of remedies are very important,” said Patankar.
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