The consultant psychiatrists’ community in the country observed that they were presently medically treating children suffering from Internet Addiction Disorder and Online Gaming Disorder (OGD) for depression and anxiety through anti-anxiety medication.
The OGD is classified under Section 3 of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 5 as a condition for further study.
Consultant Psychiatrist at the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital, Dr. Ramani Ratnaweera said that children spent between four to six hours a day on social media networks resulting in them breaking rest and breaking sleep at night, thereby disrupting sleep cycles/patterns (some children sleep at 2 a.m. and wake up late in the morning), all of which are detrimental to their brains.
Aside to achievements in education, children must develop their personalities, she noted, adding that sometimes due to these disorders, children experience situations such as total social isolation, exam related stress, and not knowing how to spend a day at home.
As part of the many treatment modalities utilized as part of cognitive behaviour therapy to change/modify behaviour, we must structure their day according to a timetable, schedule certain tasks such as physical activities and listening to music (especially to classical music to improve concentration) whilst allocating a definite time for study (and introduce study methods emphasizing the importance of education and how much one should study), and reduce the time spent on the internet gradually (as if not reduced gradually children develop withdrawal symptoms, becoming very aggressive, restless and quarrelsome with parents), she pointed out.
“The use of internet must be under parental supervision and guidance and there must be limitations imposed,” she opined.
“How should we – parents, psychiatrists, family members, teachers – approach children, specifically those above 10 years of age and are sitting for the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Ordinary Level and the competitive GCE Advanced Level examinations, suffering from these disorders, about using internet and new technology which are progressing, wisely and intelligently? This is similar to addiction to alcohol and smoking,” she said.
She stated that there are hormonal changes and they are growing, their brains are developing in terms of how they think, and they are also developing sexually. “On social media, they form unnecessary associations with persons masquerading as friends, which ultimately prove dangerous. They visit porn sites and watch videos, thus leading to the adolescent attraction towards the opposite sex intensifying due to the highly interesting material they peruse,” Dr. Ratnaweera added.