Around 25 children have lost their lives by suicide due to internet addiction in Kerala, since 2019
About 25 children from the state of Kerala fell prey to internet addiction and online gaming and ended their lives owing to it in 2019. The Kerala CM, Pinarayi Vijayan, recently made a startling revelation disclosing that digital addiction was the prime suspected reason for the suicidal deaths reported between 2019 to 2022. Such incidences draw our attention to new world problems like internet addiction and its association with suicidal ideation and suicide attempt.
What is internet addiction?
Internet addiction is a behavioural problem characterized by an excessive obsession and use of the internet to the extent that it hampers your day-to-day functioning. Online addiction has always been a topic of argument between parents and teens. Although internet addiction in itself has not yet been classified as a mental health disorder, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders- 5th edition (DSM-5) does recognize Internet Gaming Disorder as a condition requiring further study. Overuse of the internet can be damaging to one’s well-being as it disrupts a person’s sleep cycle, limits physical activity, impairs focus and withers one away from studies or work and can also have negative effects on close relationships. Devoting most of your time to the internet can be harmful to your brain and make you feel anxious, more impulsive and rigid at the same time lowering your attention span and concentration. One may seek instant gratification and need constant stimulation as a result of an increased dependency on the web.
Internet addiction and suicides:
The COVID-19 pandemic forced children to rely on the online mode of teaching-learning and in turn saw increased use of smartphones, laptops and other internet devices. However, when this use extends beyond control it leads to addiction. Recent reports surfaced explaining how online addiction was the proximate cause of suicides amongst children. Several studies conducted using regressive analysis which helps understand and control the effects of demographic characteristics, depression, family support and self-esteem, suggest that internet addiction is significantly related to suicidal ideation and suicide attempt. While online gaming, Microsoft Network (MSN), online surfing and online studying are linked to an increased risk of suicidal ideation, online gaming, chatting, watching movies, shopping, and gambling are related to an increased risk of an actual suicide attempt. Many reports highlighted how children often fell prey to financial fraud by playing online games and indulging in activities on the web. Excessive exposure to the internet makes children vulnerable to experiencing depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD and dyslexia. Also, if symptoms of these mental illnesses were left untreated in the children, they may someday or the other develop signs of severe depression and in a spat to overcome their problems eventually end their lives.
Some symptoms of internet addiction:
- Excessive reliance on the internet
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms like anger, tension and anxiety when the internet is not available
- An ever-increasing want for spending time online
- A roller coaster of emotions when playing games or using social media
- Sleep deprived due to using phone late at night
- Increased drive to indulge in behaviours like sexting over the phone
- Dependency on pornographic content
What can be done?
- Parents shall be watchful about the kind of content consumed by their children. Lack of control or ignorance on part of parents can be problematic as leniency with respect to the nature of the content being viewed and the age of the child is the root cause behind internet addiction.
- Identifying risky behaviours at the earliest can help find alternatives to these addictions.
- For younger children, school-level interventions can be used to identify kids engaged in irresponsible digital use.
- In the case of adolescents and adults opting for a digital detox wherein, one takes a break from social media platforms, keeps away from using devices and spends time in some or other refreshing activity can be beneficial.
- In case of severe addiction problems, Digital de-addiction centres (D-DAD) can help instil healthy behaviours in individuals.
- Consulting mental health professionals to assist you to overcome your internet usage can also be helpful.