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HomespecialsDoes device addiction impact family ties?

Does device addiction impact family ties?

Bengaluru: Aiming to understand the impact of technology on interpersonal relationships and family bonding, Nimhans has initiated a new study.

Approximately three out of five young couples visiting tertiary care facilities like SHUT (Service for Healthy Use of Technology) clinic at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans) report interpersonal difficulties secondary to technology use. According to researchers, this has not been quantified or understood because of the lack of assessment tools and this lacuna limits research progress in this field.

The study aims to construct and validate a scale among the youth to quantify the impact of technology on their interpersonal relationships. “The main objective is to comprehensively assess and quantify how technology, specifically the interference it causes in daily life (referred to as technoference), affects the interpersonal relationships of young individuals. This includes understanding how technologyinfluences their interactions with family, time devoted to their significant others and family, and their engagement in various activities within personal, familial and social settings,” explained Dr Nirmala B P, Professor and Head of the Department of Psychiatric Social Work.

Researchers will study patterns in those in the age group of 18 to 29 years. “In the first phase, researchers will have 25 youngsters and 12 mental health professionals for the interview. In the second phase (survey), the researcher has to follow a 1:10 ratio, meaning if the researcher generates 50 items after key informant interviews, the sample size will be 500. In the last phase, the researcher will recruit 50 participants for reliability testing of the scale,” Dr Nirmala added.

While problems due to excess technology use are widely discussed, it is crucial to comprehend the extent to which it impacts interpersonal relationships, researchers said.

“Understanding the degree of impact will enable the planning of more effective interventions. Early intervention, guided by a nuanced understanding of the severity of technoference, can be a potent strategy in mitigating its negative effects on relationships,” Dr Nirmala added.

Experts in the field like Dr Manoj Kumar Sharma, co-ordinator SHUT Clinic, opined that there was a significant increase in cases of device addiction post-pandemic and since information on the topic is still hazy, there is a need for research in the area. 

Dr Sunil Kumar Patil, a Bengaluru-based psychiatrist, said, “While a few patients can be assessed to be addicted to their gadgets, many others are in a phase where it is neither addiction nor normal. It is a little difficult to assess or measure their dependence since we do not have a scale now. Now, we usually tend to assess youngsters based on the impact of gadget use on their academic performance, anger issues, or anxiety problems,” said 

While Western countries have a few assessment scales to determine the dependence on social media and other technology, that might not suit the Indian context, yet another psychiatrist said.

“India is a diverse nation and we are not sure how reliable and accurate the Western scales will be for Indian society. Hence, there is a need for better analysis and research into the domain,” said Dr Alok Kulkarni, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist.

(Published 11 November 2023, 22:35 IST)

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