Surfing the Net for long is not a bad habit but an addiction

  • Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Aug 21, 2014 14:58 IST

Surfing the Net for long is not a bad habit but an addiction

Do you have children who cannot keep their hands off their mobile phones and computers? Disgruntled, you term it a bad habit?

In fact, this is the time to pay more attention to your children’s ‘Net addiction’. Psychiatrists feel being addicted to the Internet is not a bad habit but a disease that should be treated timely.

According to the findings of a survey on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in the US, the Internet is a kind of stimulant for these kids and social networking sites along with online video games provide the perfect outlet to these children.

For those with depression, social phobia or hostility, the Internet has a therapeutic effect, permitting them to create their own online identity without having to function ‘normally’ in the real world.

The study adds that children with ADHD have abnormal brain activity associated with impaired inhibition. This lack of self-control may make it difficult for them to control their Internet addiction. Worst affected are adolescents.

“Net addiction is on the rise, especially among adolescent children. These days, children are glued to the phone all the time. WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter are
things that children swear by these days. Children stay awake throughout the night just to surf the Net. It has serious implications on a child’s brain,” said prof Pradip Saha, director, Institute of Psychiatry.

Children and teens nowadays easily get bored and motivation levels are low since they do not get immediate rewards. So, by surfing the Net, they can perform a host of activities, which reduce the feeling of boredom. While playing online games, ‘striatal dopamine’ is released, which makes a person addicted to the games.

Other international studies suggest that Internet addiction may harm a child’s mental and physical health. Those who go online excessively tend to be distressed, tense, nervous and irritable. They have trouble sleeping and fell tired. “This discussion is of large interest for the technological society at large, given that Internet addiction is related to a medium present in virtually all homes and not regulated like drug abuse,” said Dr Aruna Dutta, neuropsychiatrist.

Most city-based psychiatrists feel parents should see this addiction towards Internet like any other addiction and take adequate measures to treat their children.

“There are so many people that come to me with this issue. I not just consult the children but also their parents. I make parents understand that they should see this as an addiction and not as a bad habit. Parents tend to neglect this considering it as a bad habit but they should treat this disease and protect their children from the harmful effects of the Internet,” added Saha.

Problematic parenting can be of two types, both of which may lead to Internet addiction. Permissive parents may allow kids to use the Internet in order to give up responsibility of looking after them. This may make children addicted to the Internet, feel psychiatrists.

On the other hand, parents who want to control their child all the time may see a rebellion developing and this may lead to excess Internet usage.

“Parents who feel their children are showing symptoms of Internet addiction should contact a healthcare professional as soon as possible,” Dutta said. This apart, a section of parents often complain about their children not taking their hands off their cellphones.

“My son is 13 years old and spends most of his time with applications like WhatsApp. At his age, we did not even know what a cellphone was. We feel so helpless at times that we cannot do anything about it. If we snatch the phone, he becomes extremely rebellious,” said Geeta Rupani, a mother.

However, some parents are taking a slew of measures while letting their children use the Internet. “Students have different mindsets and it is important to protect our children from all the wrong things. So, we have set a password on Facebook that my child does not know. Every time she wants to log on to Facebook, she has to ask us to key in the password,” said a parent, who refused to be named.

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