Illustration : Sajeevan NN
For de-escalation, one requires time, patience and initiative on the part of all parties involved. Similarly, a person addicted to something, say alcohol, requires prompt intervention from the person, others around him, and the right treatment. In the case of the internet, the individual is split between various forms of addiction. Therefore, the treatment requires correct identification of the trouble and remedy.
Dr Sandheesh PT, a senior clinical psychologist and the head of; the E-Mochan clinic, a unique initiative by the Kerala government for Internet De-addiction at Kozhikode Mental Health Care Centre gives us an insight into the de-addiction process.
Read Part 1 of the series here: Addicted to Internet? The help you need is here!
FACT: A study by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in 2021 students in South India showed that Internet Addiction is emerging to be an ever-growing and significant mental health condition among adolescent students. These studies show the growing tendency among children to spend a vast amount of time on the internet and thereby lose the sense of reality.
Types of internet addiction and gender disparities
There are various types of Internet addictions. Gaming, gambling, pornography, and chatting are prevailing forms of addiction associated with internet usage. Further, not much male-female distinction is visible among different forms of addiction. However, the vast majority of those addicted to games are males, and excitement fueled by the extensive vulgarity, gore, and extreme violence, pushes them further into the dark abyss of gaming addiction.
At the same time, males and females are both addicted to dating apps, illegal chatrooms, sites hosting sex chats, and others. Information Overload is another form of internet addiction, prevalent among those with an Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), a personality disorder characterized by extreme perfectionism, order, and neatness.
Children with conditions associated with Information Overload spend several hours online retrieving data. This affects the personal life as well as the education of the students.
On the other hand, pornography is one of the most dangerous forms of addiction which are prevalent nowadays among youngsters. It gravely affects the mindset of the children and thereby spoils their lives of these children. The Internet has proven to be a deadly platform for others associated with this form of addiction.
FACT: Despite the ban on porn, India is ranked the 3rd largest market of porn watchers in a yearly data from 2020 released by the largest pornography website in the world. The data also revealed that 44 per cent of visitors from India are aged between 18 to 24 years.
A 10-year-old girl got hold of her father's phone and started watching explicit videos. In time, she got distracted from her studies, fell into depression, struggled with social anxiety, and showed signs of anger. She is one of the many students brought before us for treatment.
Other than pornography, gambling and online gaming has proven to be emerging problems. Numerous cases were reported wherein youngsters lost money through gambling sites, online games, apps and others. In one such case, a youth lost Rs 7 lakh in just three months by playing online games. These children often turn violent when parents refuse to give them money for playing games or trying their fortune in gambling apps.
In another case, a 21-year-old boy beat his single parent demanding money for playing game online. His mother came to us with a fear of her son. She told us how chills go down one's spine every time she hears the sound of his son and friends arriving on a bike. The mother raised the child by letting him have anything he wanted. As a result, he got immersed in gaming since childhood. This addiction leads to increased violence.
Nowadays, childhood involves some form of connection with smartphones. Even the parents let newborn children and toddlers play with their smartphones. As a result, the youngsters become quite an expert in using them. Even at a tender age, they develop a profound knowledge of smartphone devices, often outsmarting their parents. However, they test the waters in a world they are not ready for yet.
Parents should be careful when they let children play with it. The videos they watch, the websites they surf through, and the private chats on their phones leave a lasting impression on the mental health of these children.
Treatments/ E- Mochan clinic
The first government-approved Internet de-addiction centre, E-Mochan, was inaugurated at the Mental Health Care Centre in Kozhikode. The principal aim of the clinic is to implement healthy internet usage than completely restrict its use. Here, therapy is provided to students with internet additions through various modes of treatment/ therapy. A lot of youngsters had successfully taken treatment here and recovered.
Similarly, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has announced that the state will open digital de-addiction centres for children under the supervision of the police at the range level.
At our centre, we used various methods to treat the condition. Online Cognitive Behaviour Intervention, a treatment protocol technique, is commonly used to treat those with internet addiction. Through this, we could provide treatment to children in online or offline mode. Currently, we are setting up a platform to provide treatment online. This will be available soon. Through this method, we could bring drastic changes to the behaviour and attitude of the students using the internet, says Dr Sandheesh PT.
Digital Detox techniques to fend off internet/phone addiction
We cannot stop any habits at once, no matter what it is. Our purpose must be to slowly reduce its presence in our lives.
Digital detox refers to a period when a person voluntarily refrains from using digital devices such as smartphones, computers, and social media platforms. Like many other habits, internet addiction should be gradually reduced and carefully managed.
Identify the time and place when you can sidestep using the phone in your day-to-day life. For instance, during office hours when you least use smartphones or while you cook dinner. By refraining from using smartphones, we find a lot of spare time to do something more useful in life. With this change, we could develop a new habit and reduce the use of smartphones.
- Bring the total digital usage time to a minimum.
- Always start small when trying to change habits, or we will stop within the first day. For instance, people go to the gym with great enthusiasm in the first few days and slowly stop halfway through.
- One should start with the easiest thing to do and stick to one of them. For example, mentally prepare oneself to stop using your smartphone while consuming food.
- Do not look at the phone from time to time while talking to someone.
- Holding the phone in one hand and going through it time and time after you get bored.
- Devices and apps attract users as much as possible and keep them hooked.
- (Part of this is that as soon as a video finishes on YouTube, the next one starts playing itself, and many similar links open up for you) Ask yourself whether you need to continue watching after one video ends.
- Turn off the phone or switch to airplane mode during exercise or when you start work or conversations that need to be completed without distractions.
- Notifications on phones, even if we do check them, the phone may continue to distract us. Turn them off as much as possible, including vibration and push notifications.
- Uninstall apps that are not used much or are of little importance. Unfollow non-essential email lists, irrelevant individuals and pages. Stay away from insignificant WhatsApp and social media groups.
- Stop the habit of replying to messages and comments immediately. Answer everything together only once or twice a day.
- Do not use the phone immediately after waking up in the morning.
- To maintain self-esteem, do not rely solely on approval from social media, but find situations in life where you could test your skills.
- You can also approach the doctors to educate yourself on the physical side of problems.
- If it is difficult to implement these restrictions alone in your life, then partner yourself with someone with the same problem.
- It would also be helpful to let family members and co-workers know that you have decided to restrict phone use.