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Pune: 3 friends turn ‘Digi detoxifiers’ to help teens come out of social media addiction

Digidetox is a platform that directly reaches out to students and educates them on the dangers of excessive internet use. The website has self-assessment tools where the participant can answer a few questions on his/her current usage of social media or gaming or internet and get immediate feedback.

Digidetox news, social media news, indian expressDigidetox, a platform to directly reach out to students and educate them on the dangers of social media addiction. ( Photo source: Digidetox)

Are you one of those parents who are losing sleep over your child’s excessive internet use? Then Digidetox is here to help your child out of the problem. Concerned about the rising internet addiction among teenagers, three friends – Pune-based Rohan Kalluraya and Aneesh Pant and Kolkata-based Arushi Sanghi – came together to launch Digidetox, a platform to directly reach out to students and educate them on the dangers of social media addiction.

“We would conduct training programmes in schools and raise awareness about the ill effects of gaming, cell phone apps and social media addiction,” said Aneesh Pant, a student at DriveChange Learning and Resource Centre.

Disturbed by selfie-related accidents, dangerous stunts to create Instagram likes, rising number of school dropouts due to internet addictions, the trio who are undergraduates, under the guidance of noted Pune-based psychiatrist Dr Bhooshan Shukla, framed a questionnaire to survey more than 1,200 students across various schools in Pune, Kolkata, Guwahati and Faizabad and developed self-assessment tools that were uploaded on their website digidetox.org.

“Internet addiction peaked to greater heights during Covid-19 pandemic. It took a heavy toll on our friends. We were shocked by the impact and hence decided to develop and upload self-assessment tools on our website where the participant can answer a few questions on his/her current usage of social media or gaming or the internet and get immediate feedback on the level of addiction,” said Rohan who has a keen interest in Applied Mathematics.

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Based on the feedback, a counsellor at school, parent or guardian can seek professional help.

Rohan recalled that he had observed some of his close friends at school getting obsessed with internet gaming in 2019.  He and Aneesh reached out to Dr Shukla and Dr Dyanraj Choudhary, a psychiatrist and de-addiction expert, who came to their school and gave an awareness talk about the ill effects of smartphone addiction. It helped the students realise the problem and seek help, Rohan said.

A year later, Arushi from Kolkata joined Digidetox and the youngsters decided to scale up their initiative by developing power-point slides, flyers, and posters that could be shared at presentations across various schools. The initial survey conducted between October 2021 and April 2022 saw the participation of 1,221 teenagers.

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Aneesh pointed out that their survey results showed that teenagers who have higher internet usage were more likely to be in denial of their issues. Generally, those who had a higher score had a tendency to say that they did not neglect their responsibilities. However, researchers have claimed that higher internet use can lead to lower work ethics, he said.

The findings have been sent to a research journal for publication. As part of scaling up the initiative, the founders have encouraged volunteers to join and become ‘Digidetoxifiers’ with an aim to conduct both online and offline programmes in schools across India to fight the menace of digital addiction.

Dr Shukla told The Indian Express that the three friends were quite worried about how people get easily hooked onto the internet at a young age. “Guided by their friends’ experiences, they wanted to understand how common the problem was and approached me. A questionnaire was devised based on the CAGE questionnaire that is clinically used to screen persons for problematic drinking on an OPD basis.”

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The scientifically-conducted survey results showed that those who used the internet excessively did not feel guilty about it.

“As a doctor for me this was an important observation as we normally assume that people do feel guilty about what they are doing especially if it is wrong in other people’s eyes. So we see high internet use with low guilt, which is a serious clinical implication, possibly could change our approach while dealing with such people,” Dr Shukla said.

First published on: 01-11-2022 at 11:31 IST
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