Doctors alarmed over gadget addiction in children, suggest Digital-free hours at home

The recent Blue Whale saga event that occurred in Mumbai has made parents knock the door of various doctors seeking professional help. Psychiatrists say that they are consulting a significant number of children with gadget addiction and it is an alarming situation that needs to be addressed on priority

Doctors alarmed over gadget addiction in children, suggest Digital-free hours at home

Gadgets have become a very integral part of our lives these days. Everything that we want is available on the internet and it seems almost inevitable to not be on internet. Given the recent spate of events across the world, it seems everyone is becoming equally vulnerable to a lot of things that remained under the carpet earlier.

And that is when the parents knock the door of various doctors seeking professional help for their children. With the recent Blue Whale saga, a lot of curiosity among parents has now led us to limit the importance of digital indulgence.

“Out of the 10 children that I consult, at least two come in with an issue of phone or gadget addiction,” said Dr Avinash Desousa, Consulting Psychiatrist at LTMG Sion Hospital and co-founder of Desousa Foundation.

“Our kids are no longer playing in real playgrounds. They relate more to virtual playgrounds. Because of this children are becoming more emotionally detached and their social skills decrease as their time with gadgets increase,” said Havovi Hyderabadwala, co-founder of Mind Mandala and clinical & forensic psychologist.

“Gadgets are extremely addictive because at a biological level a hormone known as dopamine is released with positive interactions,” she added.

The city-based doctors feel that all of this is a hint towards increasing gadget addiction among children and teens. “Earlier, children would get addicted to TV and now, they are getting increasingly addicted to social media. Time and again, this issue has been addressed,” said Dr Milan Balakrishnan, consultant psychiatrist at JUNO.

The reason, the doctors cite, is the interaction that is possible through the internet, “Social media definitely is more interactive. People who are vulnerable may get affected. Those who are vulnerable find solace in the virtual world,” added Dr Balakrishnan.

Suicides induced by this addiction are further possibility and doctors are trying ceaselessly to help prevent this. Furthermore, being ‘together’ with family averts this addiction say doctors. “Parents need to be rather strict with children in terms of gadget usage. Digital ‘free hours’ at home should be mandatory, “said Dr Desousa.

“Parents need to create a barter system with their children in order to keep their world in check and balanced,” suggested Hyderabadwala.

On the other hand, there are many positives of the internet too, point out psychiatrists if used correctly. In her book, ‘Death is not the answer’, Dr Anjali Chhabria writes, “There is a pattern of thought that individual feeling suicidal expresses which includes — helplessness, hopelessness or even worthlessness. Statuses online highlighting their feelings of becoming a burden and can help to track an individual who is being suicidal.”

She further explains, “Facebook has recently launched the suicide prevention resources in India; which get its users who are at suicidal risk or know someone who has expressed suicidal ideation. Facebook then get in touch with the mental health organisations it has partnered to provide them with the necessary and timely intervention.”