How does digital addiction affect Czech children and adolescents? “Something becomes a problem at the time when that activity becomes what matters only to the person. He does not think about his duties or hobbies and spends all his time in the digital world,” says addiction specialist and therapist Tomas Gundach of the Addiction Clinic of the First Faculty of Medicine at Charles University and Hospital Public University in Prague.
According to him, one of the main problems associated with digital addiction is that children and teens who are addicted to games and the Internet get out of relationships with their peers. Even with parents, which affects the entire life of the individual and his surroundings.
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“Addicts may have physical problems, and may be sleep-deprived because they choose the hours of the night to play games when parental control is less.”
Such children do not have a healthy lifestyle. “They choose fast sugars, biscuits and chocolate because they need to get energy. They drink a lot of energy drinks. They may suffer from depression or anxiety, on a psychological level, they may fall outside their responsibilities, for example school or work.”
“We face the fact that parents come to us playing computer games. But then we found out in therapy that it’s not about computer games, but these kids or teens spending a lot of time on chat platforms or streaming services to watch videos. It’s a whole viewing culture and something that can to consume you.”
The digital world is enough for boys
“We often encounter the fact that children may have problems having relationships in real life. There are some barriers. They may even have PTSD from bullying or experience a bad relationship. And then it becomes easier for them to have relationships online.”
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Differences in the social sphere are evident between the sexes.
Statistics have shown that the epidemic has had a greater impact on girls than on boys. My interpretation is that girls develop first and then need more physical contact, ie having a friend by their side or being with a group. But the boys made up for their social needs in the digital world and that seemed to be enough for them.”
Self-harm is a particularly worrying phenomenon among children and adolescents. “It’s a trend. Here at the children’s clinic, this is a classic problem that we have with patients. It’s self-harm, for example by cutting or burning or it can be a problem with eating.”
“If I talk about my generation in the 30s and 40s, self-harm was present, but certainly not to that extent. This explanation belongs to sociologists. But we can say that it affects a large number of children today and is a very common problem.”
Parents: Don’t be alone with your problems
Jandáč emphasizes the effectiveness of primary prevention. “Thanks to the pandemic, we are seeing efforts to support the mental health of the entire community, including children. Every school is also committed to providing primary prevention for children. And when spending time with digital media becomes an issue, I tell parents not to be alone.”
There is no need to visit a specialized clinic right away. “There are groups for parents and loved ones, even if just to get their directions on the whole situation. There are a lot of demands on parents today, which is why I would like to ask them not to be alone in this.”
“In today’s world we can’t live outside the digital world, society demands that of us, which is why we don’t even follow the path of abstinence in treating or curing these problems, because we can’t even do it well enough. But we are talking about reducing time. And improving the quality of time in the first place, but not about the fact that such addicts can abstain completely,” explains therapist and addiction scientist Tomáš Jandáč about the issue of digital addiction treatment.
Listen to the entire Leonardo studio, prepared and supervised by Lenka Pištěková.