Asia - Pacific

Indonesian children suffering from gadget addiction

Most boys use mobile devices for online games, while girls use them for social media, says specialist in psychology

Surya Fachrizal Aprianus   | 28.11.2019
Indonesian children suffering from gadget addiction

BOGOR, Indonesia

Indonesian children are suffering from mental disorders due to an addiction to mobile devices.

The number of such cases accounted for 25% of all pediatric patients at one hospital in the city of Bogor in West Java province.

This was revealed by Dr. Ira Savitri Tanjung, a specialist in psychology, as well as child and adolescent psychiatrists at Marzuki Mahdi Hospital in Bogor last week.

The hospital is currently treating more than 300 pediatric patients, meaning there are around 75 children suffering from mental disorders due to mobile device addiction.

"Every day, I treat about 30 patients. Twenty-five percent of them are gadget-related," she said.

Ira noted that addiction to devices has been included in the diagnostic criteria.

"So addiction to gadgets is considered a psychological disorder," she said.

Ira said the signs of gadget addiction include using a device up to 20 hours a day, changes in behavior, refusing to go to school and avoiding social interaction.

"Children who are addicted to their devices will be angry if they are taken away from them or if their internet quota runs out," she said.

One of the patients’ parents, Sujana bin Samhuri, claimed his son, Syamsul Arifin,12, was always angry when he used up his data quota.

"When the quota runs out, he gets angry, doesn't want to go to school and doesn't want to recite the Qur'an. He even broke a plate," Sujana said.

Sujana said he bought a smartphone for his son as a gift for being promoted to grade 6.

But since then, his son's behavior has changed. Syamsul has been using his mobile device until midnight.

"He plays the Mobile Legends game. If he hasn't won, he won't stop," Sujana said.

After consulting with a local clinic, Sujana was advised to bring Syamsul to Marzuki Mahdi Hospital. There, Syamsul underwent rehabilitation for three weeks.

After being treated for nearly a month without a device, Syamsul's behavior improved.

"Thank God, it's normal. He’s not emotional anymore,” said Sujana.

Addiction causes illusions

The head of Marzuki Mahdi Hospital’s Psychosocial Rehabilitation Installation, Dr. Lahargo Kembaren, said gadget addiction is happening worldwide.

"The World Health Organization (WHO) calls it gaming disorder. It means mental disorders due to excessive gameplay,” said Lahargo.

According to Lahargo, gaming disorder also includes addiction to mobile devices because most games are played on a mobile device or smartphone.

Lahargo said mental disorders due to mobile device addiction can be in the form of depression, anxiety, an inability to distinguish illusions from reality, bipolar disorder and excessive feelings of pleasure or sadness.

"So it’s not him who controls the gadget, but the gadget that controls him," said Lahargo.

Ira said children with device addiction tend to control their parents. She said because they could not stand seeing their children angry, parents would always meet their demands, such as continuing to purchase internet quotas.

Sujana confirmed Ira's statement, adding his efforts to scold his son over his device addiction also did not achieve any results.

Online game, social media and device detox

Ira said most of her patients are boys, maybe because boys are more aggressive if their devices are taken by their parents, so parents take them to psychiatrists for immediate treatment.

Ira said most boys use gadgets to play online games, whereas girls are addicted to social media like Facebook, Instagram and the TikTok video app.

Lahargo said the handling of children with device addiction must be done holistically, starting by using psychopharmaceutical drugs, behavior therapy and psychosocial rehabilitation.

Lahargo asserted that all rehabilitation efforts for people addicted to gadgets must have a digital detoxification dissertation.

"During therapy, they must be separated from the device which is the source of their addiction," he said.

After recovering, said Lahargo, children must have a new way of using a device. He said parents must have rules that limit the use of devices by children.

Ira said that children aged 0 to 2 years should be kept away from a device. She also noted that children under the age of 14 should not be permitted to use the devices.

"For that, parents must become closer to their children and accompany them when using a device," she suggested.

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