- Cyber addiction in children shows an alarming increase in post-pandemic India
- To avoid its long-term consequences, it should be addressed with therapy and medication
Recently, treatment demands in medical centers across India show skyrocketing numbers for children with cyber addiction.
The Covid-19 pandemic had quarantined children and adolescents from their social environment, school, and hobbies. Remaining indoors, they were forced to adjust to online communication. With easier access to digital technologies and the Internet, they became vulnerable to addictions of online gaming, online gambling, social media, streaming services, and internet pornography.
Internet addiction in children was a reality in pre-pandemic India, but the post-pandemic era situation is a different affair altogether. Dr. Sameer Parekh, of Fortis Healthcare, said, “We are seeing a threefold increase in such cases in the OPD and the tele-helpline too is flooded with calls from worried parents.”
Pediatric clinics and other medical centers have been dealing with alarming cases of internet addiction in children. One of the cases involved a young girl who developed insomnia and hallucinations from her addiction to online streaming services. Another case involved a high school student with an online gambling addiction, who spent Rs. 75,000 in a single week on his parents’ credit card. Most of the cases, however, involve adolescents with addiction to online gaming.
Children with cyber addiction show signs of psychosocial problems like substance abuse, mood disorders, stress disorders, hyperactivity, inattention, aggression and hostility, and suicidal behaviors. These symptoms usually worsen in the long run.
Medical practitioners have highlighted the sincere need to address cyber addiction through therapy, medication, and even hospitalization. To make cyber addiction treatment cheap and accessible, they have also emphasized on the need to have more cyber addiction clinics and treatment facilities in government hospitals.
Addressing online addiction in children comes with challenges. In the current scenario of social distancing, children’s access to the Internet cannot be prevented. But, it can be regulated into safe usage by active parental monitoring.
“Very importantly, parents should be aware of the warning signs in their children, for example behavioral changes, reduced interaction with family members … irregular sleeping or eating habits and mood changes,” suggests Dr. Yatan Pal Singh Balhara of AIIMS. If they see such behaviors persisting, they must avail medical treatment for their children.