Social media addiction has become a common and raging psychological disorder with adolescents, young adults and adults all coming in its grip.
It is important to understand what kind of social media behavior will qualify as an "addiction". To make it easy let us consider the term "Psychological dependence". Whenever we become "dependent" on any object or behavior and without which we experience distress then it can be considered as addiction.
I am seeing a lot of such cases in my clinic nowadays where children as young as 11 years old are getting hooked to sites like Instagram, online games like PUBG, Fortnite , Facebook, Snapchat, tik tok etc.
The children brought to my clinic have lost interest in studies, friends, play, and all other activities.
🔻They are using screen for as long as 4 to 16 hrs a day.
🔻They just want to be left alone with their phones.
🔻Any attempt to talk to them or scold them is met with stiff resistance and aggression.
🔻They are up in bed for hours till early morning and as a result have to skip school.
They do not show any motivation to modify their behaviour and are reluctant and hostile when brought to the clinic.
This is because it is too late before the parents take this action. It would be helpful if parents know the telltale signs of whether the child is slipping into dependance and take an early action.
The important things to look for could be :
1. Is your child having unlimited access to smartphone?
2. What is the total "screen time" of your child?
3. What are the other activities that your child participates in?
4. Are you aware what social media sites your child is visiting or using?
5. Are you aware of which online games is he playing?
6. Has your child's interest in his other activities reduced off late?
7. What is his sleeping pattern?
8. Do you notice any changes in his mood?
9. Is his academic performance deteriorating suddenly?
10. Does he become defensive , aggressive, or starts crying when you try to control his phone usage?
11. What is the level of his actual social interaction with his peers and family?
Answers to some of these questions should start you thinking on lines of seeking help.
The Psychological counseling for such addictions is a specialised treatment like any other addiction.
Some of the points which could help in dealing with these children could be :
1. Initially an attempt is made to engage the child in conversation.
2. A non judgemental attitude helps.
3. The child is not blamed or accused of his behaviours.
4. A confidentiality based rapport is established.
5. The child is helped to engage in conversations about his life and goals.
6. A discussion about his behaviours and it's consequences is then undertaken with the help of some Experiential games and activities.
These are a few points to start with.
Once the child's confidence is won only then discussion on modifying phone related behaviours are resorted to.
If introduced prematurely the session would end abruptly and therapy would backfire.