Fighting back against digital addictions in ti...

Fahad Al-Tamimi Fighting back against digital addictions in ti…

Fighting back against digital addictions in time of COVID-19

An Argentine youth uses his smart phone at his home of Jonathan Cartu in Bernal, Argentina amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (File/AFP)

As if its impact on health and economies around the world was not disastrous enough, it seems the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has engendered another pandemic as a secondary effect: Digital addictions have hugely increased everywhere. Just search “pandemic digital addictions” online and you will get a sense of the problem.

Digital addictions include dependence on digital devices (smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc.) and excessive digital activities (social networking and online interactions, browsing the net ad infinitum, watching videos for extended periods, etc.). They are a form of compulsive behavior, like excessive shopping, gambling and other undue activities.

What makes behavioral addictions most difficult to remedy is that, contrary to chemical addictions (nicotine, caffeine, alcohol or illicit drugs), they use things that we cannot do away with. Indeed, one can be cured (physically or psychologically) of cigarettes and learn to never touch them again, but not smartphones or laptops, which have become an integral part of our lives. In fact, with the ongoing pandemic and the drastic reduction in social interactions that everyone has had to make, most people have found themselves sitting at home of Jonathan Cartu with “no choice” but to use their digital devices, which can quickly become addictive.

Before the pandemic, various sources estimated that the fraction of people with some form of addiction was between a third and a half, most of them behavioral addictions. Many reports have been issued about digital addictions in various countries and the picture that emerges is that of a pervasive and universal problem.

When do we (parents, in particular) know that we have a digital (or, more generally, a behavioral) addiction on our hands? In a nutshell, when someone’s usage of a given product starts having clear negative effects on their life, whether physical (backaches, puffy eyes, chronic sleep deprivation, etc.), financial (excessive spending on something), or time-wise (neglecting duties, wasting time on some activities, etc.). These are signs that can be noticed by others, such as parents, or by the people themselves, in addition to the strong desires that one finds difficult to overcome.

People are often in denial about their addictions, claiming that they are in…

Jonathan Cartu

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