Digital addiction eroding vulnerable young minds
- By Dulguun Bayarsaikhan -
- Feb 09,2018
Can’t stay away from your phone? Staying up all night watching films and surfing the internet? Are you playing video games on your phone and computer all day? Do you feel the urge to chat with your friends? If so, you might want to get a checked up because you’re showing signs of addiction to digital devices. Before we could realize, the internet and digital devices have become an essentiality in all of our lives. We’re keeping it, especially phones, on ourselves 24 hours a day so that we don’t miss the latest news feed on social media and gossips about classmates, colleagues and celebrities. As we grow ever more dependent on these devices, they are interfering with our lives and stopping us from doing the things we really need to do. Have you ever had to reschedule every appointment and work at maximum workload and speed just to make time to meet a friend and only get a few dialogues before he or she decides that Facebook or Instagram has better things to share than you? Well, I have and that’s when I noticed that it was a matter of time before all live interactions ceased to exist, while everyone developed a compulsive need to use digital devices. However, digital addiction doesn’t end with that. There’s more adverse impacts than we can imagine.
Boys are most vulnerable to becoming a tech addictI spoke with L.Tserendolgor, a senior doctor at the Child and Adolescent Clinic of the National Center for Mental Health, to get a better grasp of the situation. L.Tserendolgor said that the clinic admitted 89 children for addiction to screens, phones and other digital devices last year, which is 21 children more than in 2016. She stressed that the number of patients with such problems has been growing in recent years and reported that 31 minors were admitted to the clinic in 2013, 47 in 2014, 41 in 2015, and 68 children in 2016. Statistics show that around 98 to 99 percent of tech addicts are fifth to eighth grade boys between the ages of 10 and 16. Based on a survey among patients, 82.3 percent had poor parental supervision, deprived of attention and affection, or were raised “incorrectly” (overindulged by their parents). Researcher B.Munkhzaya studied the common psychological traits among children addicted to video games and concluded that those who are introverted, dependent on others, and lack a sense of responsibility and self-control are most vulnerable to digital addiction. However, this is merely data of those on record. There could be hundreds or thousands of others suffering from addiction but are unaware of their condition or refusing to get treatment due to personal or financial issues.
Extreme digital addicts can’t separate reality and virtual realityThe most common symptoms of digital addiction are:
- Agitation and aggression
- Jumpy and jittery anxiety
- Urge to fidget or use a smartphone
- Playing or searching for new games
- Poor concentration
- Bad eyesight
- Sleep depreciation
- Neck and backaches
- Weight loss
- Poor immunity
Longer you remain addicted, longer it takes to healThe National Center for Mental Health treats digital addiction through individual and group cognitive-behavioral treatment. When asked about the effectiveness of these treatments, doctor L.Tserendolgor replied, “The longer a person prolongs their addiction, the longer they need to get treated. Therefore, children need to continue their treatment after getting discharged from the hospital and need to regularly see a psychologist or therapist. This is how we can ensure positive change in the patient’s condition.” She advised parents to pay attention to their children as digital addiction can be very difficult to cure. It’s common for patients to return to playing video games for an extended period after getting treated, she underlined.
Examining effects of Facebook on childrenA study was recently conducted among 550 students and 170 parents living in Ulaanbaatar, Umnugovi, Selenge and Khuvsgul provinces to determine how the internet and Facebook, the most popular social media used in Mongolia, affect children. According to the results, an overwhelming 51.5 percent of respondent access the internet from home. This indicates that interaction between families is decreasing as the use of the internet increase. Other popular answers were: using the internet wherever there is access (16.6 percent), at a friend’s home (16 percent), and at internet cafes (11.7 percent). Most of these people have been using Facebook for two or three years. To the question “How many admin rights and group membership do you have?”, 60.8 percent of students answered that they are members of more than five Facebook groups with at least one admin right. While most students (53.7 percent) used one Facebook account, 12.7 percent of respondents had two accounts, 14.7 percent had three accounts, and 6.9 percent had four accounts. Below are responses to some questions related to their Facebook profile.
|Do you use your real name?||77.3%||22.7%|
|Is your profile photo a photograph of yourself?||73.6%||26.4%|
|Is your mobile phone number available on your FB profile?||23.6%||76.4%|
|Is your home address written on your FB profile?||7.3%||92.7%|
|Is your school information available on your FB profile?||66.4%||33.6%|
Family lock program to ensure internet safety for childrenThe Family, Child and Youth Development Agency is planning to launch a Family Lock software that allows parents to supervise the information children can access via the internet sometime this year. The agency is partnering with the Communications Regulatory Commission on this project. Head of the Family, Child and Youth Development Agency D.Budzaan noted that the Family Lock program was an ideal way to prevent children from getting involved and becoming victims to cybercrimes. According to Head of the Children’s Department at the General Police Department D.Budzaan, out of 222 cybercrime reports received last year, the majority were linked to defamation, fraud, and conduct involving harassment or seduction of a minor by an adult to obtain some kind of sexual gratification. So far, 21 cases have been settled. There are 400 registered internet cafes in Mongolia. The police are inspecting these places to eliminate all violations and have shut down 24 internet cafes to date, reported D.Budzaan.
Possible remedies and recommendationsNot only government and non-government organizations but also parents must put effort to reducing digital addiction and negative behavior. It’s said that only five percent of patients suffering from any type of addiction succeed in their recovery while the remaining 95 percent fail. Considering this, the best solution to digital addiction might be to focus on preventing it from happening in the first place. Nevertheless, here are some recommendations the government and parents can do to eliminate digital addiction. Recommendations for policymakers are:
- There is a need to expand cooperation between affiliated ministries and agencies to provide an integrated policy on state services for mental health.
- Policymakers need to promote public involvement in measures aimed to raise awareness and provide accurate information about mental health issues.
- The government needs to organize activities aimed to provide social and psychological assistance to families in regards to mental health.
- Organizations need to increase recreational clubs to help children and teenagers spend their leisure time productively instead of playing computer games or surfing the internet.
- Policymakers must develop a policy to create healthy family relations.
- Schools need to create a healthy environment to prevents adverse mental health issues and hire a psychologist for students.
- Teachers and social workers should seek professional assistance if a student is skipping classes, not going home after school, or showing symptoms of addiction to digital devices.
- Parents need to be good role models to their children.
- They should supervise the amount of time their children spend on the internet or smartphone and ensure that they don’t go to websites with contents not suitable to their age.