9-year-old cuts arm when distracted from his mobile

New Delhi: The super busy parents gifted a phone to their four-year-old boy and thought, he would be saved from bad company and would be easy to handle. But he ended up becoming the youngest case of ‘mobile dependence’ who cut his arm with a kitchen knife and made parents realise their mistake.

His mother would give him phone as a distraction so that he would eat easily when she fed him at a very young age. At nine, he cut his arm with a knife when he was distracted by the phone to have a real life.

The Class IV student was recently rushed to a Delhi hospital and was first treated by a general surgeon before the doctors, realising the underlying problem, referred him to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital’s consultant psychiatrist, Dr Rajiv Mehta. “It is one of the youngest cases of mobile dependence,” said Dr Mehta, reports Indian Express.

“Both parents are working, the father a businessman and the mother a lecturer, and had very little time for the child. It was also found that when the child was an infant, he was given the mobile for entertainment. Slowly, it developed into a habit. He would have his meals only when he had a mobile. Either he would see YouTube or play games while having food,” Dr Mehta said.

While his counselling, the boy reluctantly started to talk. “He opened up when we started talking about his relationships and the mobile phone. He said he preferred the mobile over outdoor games,” the Dr added.

The parents also admitted their mistake for not instilling in him the value of not letting an electronic device have a control over him. And they did not push him to go outside to play.

The doctor said the child started to show symptoms of anger and depression when the phone would be taken from him.
“He had started having constant headaches, which were found to be due to failing eyesight. He has advised spectacles. To control further deterioration of his eyesight, parents were advised not to let the child use mobile phones and other screens like laptop and television. However, by this time, his habit had transformed into mobile dependence. Any effort to remove the mobile invited irritable behaviour and temper tantrums. He would bang his head against the wall if his wishes were not complied with,” Dr Mehta says.

“Finally, he tried cutting his forearm with the kitchen knife to have his way,” he told.

According to the doctor, cases of mobile phone dependence are getting increasing attention, with its effects now seen to be equivalent to substance abuse.
“Anything is termed as dependence when it is in excess and when it starts affecting social and occupational life. In the case of substance dependence, the person knows that excessive consumption of the substance is affecting his social and occupational life but still he cannot control it. Just like in drug dependence, in this case, the child had signs of craving, social isolation, feelings of anger and tension when the mobile was not with him. While ‘mobile phone dependence’ has still not made its way to the diagnostic manual, psychiatrists are now using this nomenclature,” said the doctor.

The boy is now being advised about “alternative ways of living”, the doctor said. “While he has been put on anti-depressants, the main treatment is changing his dependence. He is trying to meet new children. We are ensuring he has new hobbies. We are encouraging him to play table-tennis. He has started liking it. He is also going for music classes to relax his mind.”