IITB Central Library 2.0 Service

Net, online games have kids hooked

Posted on: October 25, 2010

Times of India
MUMBAI: Poonam Saxena (name changed) was surprised to see her daughter’s consistently falling grades, even though the girl was claiming to study religiously every day. Her 12-year-old daughter was not only agreeing to study more, but also to help Saxena with her household chores.

Later, the mother of two realized that all this would happen under only on one condition. “All I had to do was let her play Counter Strike for an hour at a nearby cyber cafe,” said Saxena, who found that her daughter spent hours at cyber cafes daily. She would often end up playing games on any mobile if she was not allowed to go to a cyber cafe. “I had to stop attending my Yoga classes as she would sneak out of the house when I wasn’t around and would be traced at some cyber cafe around,” added Saxena, who immediately contacted a psychiatrist for help.

“I call it screen addiction, rather than only internet addiction,” said psychiatrist Anjali Chhabria, who has treated many such cases and is not helping Poonam’s daughter.

“It is like any other addiction. Only here, people don’t even realize they are addicted till it’s too late,” said Harish Shetty, a psychiatrist with L H Hiranandani Hospital.

Three years ago, a couple of suicides inside IIT-Bombay campus sparked rumours of possible addiction to internet as the cause for them to take such a drastic step. The authorities then decided to restrict internet usage on campus. “One can’t access internet between 12 and 7 am on the campus,” said Prakash Gopalan, dean, student affairs at IIT-Bombay. “Initially when we imposed the ban, students opposed the move. Now, the same students thank us,” Shetty added.

“Many times, one tends to withdraw from any social contact because they know they have a society they are more familiar with online,” said Chhabria. “Facebook is the latest craze amidst adults as well as kids. I know kids who wake up every two hours at night to feed their animals on Farmville,” she added.

According to Shetty, many resort to internet to escape the realities of life. One of his patients, a student of biotechnology, after failing in his first semester exams, stopped attending lectures and frequented nearby videogame parlours instead. “He would avoid everybody, even his friends,” he said. Shetty advises lending an ear to your child as a possible solutio. “Listening to the child’s experience with respect.”

Constant presence on internet doesn’t always lead to addiction. “I spend six-seven hours a day looking for new racing cars and sponsors. I find the latest models of cars and I try to find out where I lack and how I can improve,” said Sneha Sharma, a professional race car driver.

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