Parents of three college-going teenagers recently approached the Mukhtangan De-addiction Centre in Pune, but it was for an ailment you don’t really think is an ailment—net addiction. The teens spend 15 to 17 hours surfing the net, accessing social network and pornography
Unlike addictions such as cigarettes, alcohol, narcotics or gambling, which can be completely cut off, the internet is different because it is so much a part of daily existence. “They need to use the net at least some time, so it cannot be banned. With mobile accessibility to the net, the risk of a relapse is high. It needs strong willpower to get off it,” says a counsellor from the centre.
Mukhtangan has a five-week residential programme of net de-addiction. The kids were enrolled in it. They were counselled about inter-personal problems and those that arose from personality disorders.
On the road to recovery, they have been asked to use the internet for half an hour a day.
There is a counsellor for every patient and the second week focuses on the relatives and friends of the person and reasons for the addiction. The third week is dedicated to dealing with emotional problems. In the fourth and fifth weeks, they are extensively counselled on life after being discharged from the centre. “We tell them how to find healthy alternatives. But post discharge, the family has to play an important role and provide them emotional support,” says the counsellor. Recreational games, physical training and gardening are part of the cleansing process.
Interestingly, a 10-city survey conducted by Assocham disclosed that over 50 per cent of all respondents aged between eight and 18 years were on the web for over five hours a day. In the absence of parental supervision, children of working parents are more susceptible to internet addiction than others. Net addiction is not age-specific.
Due to lack of awareness, warning signs of internet addiction are overlooked in India. A growing majority are unaware that they are addicts. Centres across the country such as MindTemple (Mumbai) and the Institute of Mind Control and Personal Transformation (Bangalore) treat net addicts regularly. Recovery is not easy and takes anything from three months to a year. Regular follow-ups are crucial.