INTERNET ADDICTION: IS YOUR PC AND SMARTPHONE CHANGING YOU?
I sit in Costa coffee house and observe a group of young teenagers and older but young adults with coffee going cold as they have their heads bowed into their smartphones ( thank to the Free Wi-Fi). They are completely oblivious to anything going on around them and seemingly devoid of an meaningful conversation beyond a stream of guttural phrases and cliches. Smartphones have become an essential ingredient in our busy lives. Last night whilst working on a Tv assignment I observed Love Islanders with shouts of joy and acclamation as one had received a text. It was as if she had been won a fortune or had been given her own new home and car. Bu it was simply a text message. In this and other blogs to follow I want you to spread the word to your peers and families that we must engage our brains and challenge our psychological dependency and attachment to these smartphones and also video games such as fortnite and many others.
In the abnormal and increasingly fake world of reality tv, we have allowed our young generation to lose their self control of who they really are, and their personal and social identities. Our society is virtually obsessed with image and body image at that , across all age levels, and if we don’t conform to what telly expostulates daily, then we are perceived to be not conforming to society’s norms. The negative and unwanted impact of Instagram Snapchat and other forms of social media has on teenagers lives is producing a new era of children with mental health issues.
Each day in my suicide and self harm prevention clinic , I have noticed a slow rise in the number of kids presenting with various forms of attachment to gaming devices inspired by sport adverts and the lure of excitement and the quick fix. Thee is something about winning that attracts the child, a level of the most sinister abuse of children I have ever encountered by the manufacturer’s who know the addictive nature of their Apps and video games. It smacks of a lack of moral reasoning in the manufacturers own mindset that they develop these video games to exploit children’s young minds and it’s a covert form of deliberate abuse of a child’s psychological development.They wield great power over us aiding and abetting the addiction and I read recently where theologians claim it affects the spiritual life of children. The smartphone and video games become idols to be worshipped and adorned. Our lives immediately become capturable and shareable. Not surprised that the editors of TIME American magazine named the iPhone the single most influential gadget of all time. Thy also claimed that our use of these gadgets will have serious repercussions for decades to come. What is the price of all this digital magic on the personal psychological development of our youth?
NHS AND THE FIRST ADDICTION CLINIC
I was delighted to read in todays telegraph of a the most salient breakthrough in the UK in the context of internet addiction. The UK is to open its first addiction clinic. The Centre for Internet Addiction will be run by the North West London NHS Foundation offering treatment and advice for families according to reports. It comes after the WHO World Health Organization classified video gaming as a medical disorder amid increasing evidence of young people suffering from psychological distress and family breakdown through their addiction.
In my own charity clinic I notice that in some cases kids as young as six to ten years old are socially learning gaming from parents. Kids frequently tell me about how they must have Fortnite and other popular video games otherwise they will be bullied of they don’t have it or understand it. Pressure on parents to either give in to youngsters or exert discipline and prohibit its purchase or use .
I commend and offer my unfailing support to Consultant Psychiatrist Henrietta Bowden-Jones who has pioneered the foundation of this clinic in London. She told the Guardian “ Gaming disorder is finally getting the attention it deserves. The distress and harm it can cause is extreme and I feel a moral duty on behalf of the NHS to provide the evidence based treatment these young people and their families need” She added that “ other countries have free services for example, there are some in Asia. We are really behind .I am not sure how it took us so long. Maybe its because we had no champion and I will identify as that champion”,
Dr Bowden-Jones insisted that she did not see and epidemic of young players with an addiction to gaming, but simply hoped to help the small number who do struggle and she wishes to prevent them from having to drop out from school. Funding has now been secured for a weekly therapy group for gaming addicts an she hopes that the Centre will be funded by the NHS research grants and from philanthropists.
Gaming Disorder is to be added to the ICD -11 a classification system used by psychologists and psychiatrists to diagnose mental health disorders. The specific criteria if seen evident in an individual, will make it easier for clinicians to diagnose and appropriately treat the condition. We need research funding to explore that causes of Gaming addiction and Smartphone addiction. Press reports confirm that Dr Vladimir Poznyak of the WHO said up to six per cent of young people could be affected
In my work as a Social Media and Celebrity Psychologist I often see young people consumed by the power and lure of reality tv and the exultation of fame. Based on self image. There is an addictive compulsion to reality Tv pop videos but to the likes of LoveIsland as one “fears missing out” The addictive nature of such shows reinforces the want and triggers of kids motives to discuss online besides offline, who is sleeping with who and who is jealous of whoever and so on.
Dr Jo Begent wrote an excellent article in today’s Telegraph 23rd June 2018 where she outlined many of the complexities in her experiences of dealing with children who were addicted to gaming. She cites the case of a ten year old who had bladder and distended bowel problems were it had ballooned out of his pelvis. A thirteen year old also given to gaming disorder had heart palpitations every time he stood up, as he was unused to moving about normally. In another case a fourteen year old suffer for Vitamin D deficiency as she rarely saw the sun. Most of these symptoms I see in my own clinic where some kids will self harm if removed from video games. The emotional release is experienced by wrist stomach or arm and thigh cutting. Dr Begent sees the worst of these cases as an adolescent physician. She said that there is a grade of physical damage being done to or children due to the internet. This is an unusual phenomenon in our health service. Its unusual because the speed of hi technological developments
Asa psychologist I see kids unable to communicate their feelings to me , parents tell me about their kids falling asleep in school, unable to focus or concentrate on homework. Parents frequently see anger in their children if prevented from playing vide games on the internet and mild to sever outbursts of aggression if disciplined. Many parents are to be commended for taking internet behaviour of their children seriously and teaching them basic skills of rewarding avoidance skills with appropriate rewards. Its far too simple to take it away as technology is interwoven into their lives for educational achievement. I suggest that Government legislate to enforce social media giants and game manufacturers to develop software that allows children say ten to fifteen minutes every three days to play selected video games which are deemed by technological experts as non addictive. Access to video games must be approved first by the children’s parents who have proof of identity and a rationing process would encourage children to take social responsibility for video game use.
As doctors we have to treat the physical and emotional symptoms sf what has become a major health concern, says Dr. Begent. We must implore Government to expose video game manufacturers who may employ specialist developers to make some video games highly addictive so maximising profits at the expense of child mental health concerns.
Arthur Cassidy Ph.D
Social media & Celebrity Psychologist