Creating disorders that do not exist — this is an allegation levelled against psychiatrists. The initial concern about Internet Addiction, believe it or not, actually arose out of this allegation. A caustic article posted on a website in 1995, explored the possibility of psychiatrists creating this ‘new’ disorder in order to expand their tentacles over society.
Truth, however, is stranger than fiction and this piece, paradoxically, alerted us to a possibility which is now a stark reality. Does Screen Addiction exist? Does this form of behavioural addiction have the same definitional parameters as Substance/ Drug Addiction? How do we conceptualise this problem in a period in our civilisation when the smartphone and internet are considered essential tools for human existence? When does the use of an essential service become a vice and an addiction? How do we help young people, who are being pushed into learning modalities which make internet use mandatory, and are allegedly suffering from Screen Addiction?
There are a multitude of questions, with very little science-based answers. There is a plethora of opinions telling us that Screen Addiction has reached an epidemic proportion and we need to act. But how? For those labelled as having Screen Addiction, is no smartphone use an answer? For the majority of Drug and Alcohol Dependent persons, mental health professionals recommend abstinence. Is that a realistic goal for Screen Addiction?
Increased smartphone use, to the detriment of academic pursuits, physical and mental health has been one of the key conflict points amongst young people and parents in the past few years. The enforced use of smartphones during the pandemic has catapulted the concern. The ugly side of increased dependence is stark — from affecting the development of young children under five, to increased risk of a host of psychological problems in older children and young people.
Let’s hear it from Vivek Benegal and Sharmila Bose
Kolkata Psychiatry Club is organising a discussion featuring two experts in this domain. Prof. Vivek Benegal, Department of Addiction at NIMHANS, Bangalore, has a lifetime of experience in researching and working with young people and their families who come to him with Behavioural Addictions. The other speaker is Ms Sharmila Bose, Director of Sushila Birla Girls School, who has a long experience of working with students who struggle with learning and behavioural problems.
The public awareness programme organised by Kolkata Psychiatry Club in collaboration with My Kolkata (The Telegraph Online) will be held at Kala Mandir from 6pm on August 15, 2022. ‘Screen Addiction: A Myth or A Reality?’ is a free event, and seats will be allocated on a first-come-first-seated basis.