Today we will talk about depression as well as internet addiction and related disorders. First of all, major depression is a clinical illness. This doesn’t include sadness and other short-lived unhappy events. Depression is determined by a clinical diagnosis. So a depressed person is someone who has no apparent cause of illness, but is still suffering the effects on their way of life or work. It may stem from a genetic disorder.
Or it may happen to those with chronic illnesses such as prolonged diabetes or cancer. Also, drug abusers are a high-risk group for major depression.
Developed countries usually have more diagnosed cases of major depression than do developing countries. Statistics show that people in developed countries have a 15 per cent chance of having a major depression, so one in every 7 persons is a sufferer at least once in their lifetime.
In developing countries, a person has a 10 per cent chance of developing major depression, or one in every 10 persons.
However, the ratio of depression incidents among senior citizens and those with chronic diseases are much higher than in the general population.
Can you talk about depression and cyber addiction disorders, such as cyberbullying, which are increasingly common among younger people?
Yes, this is a new type of incident resulting from the widespread use of technology and internet devices.
While the internet has been around for more than 20 years over the past decade, it has become more widespread due to the use of mobile devices, which are convenient and handy. They’re everywhere, even while you are jogging. Most students also have mobile phones.
Now, authorities allow primary school students to bring their mobile phones to classes. However, there are both pros and cons of using mobile phones among young people.
In recent research, we worked with two Bangkok schools and found that students with mobile phones have better academic performance than those without the devices. However, there are also other factors at play, such as that higher-income households can afford the devices or have more money to pay for after-school tuition.
Those with mobile phones may have advantages in terms of using their devices to search for additional information on the internet, for instance.
What’s about the cons?
There are also many negative consequences, including cyberbullying and other internet addiction disorders.
What is your advice for parents with young children?
First of all, parents need to spend sufficient time with their kids. They need to pay close attention to the well-being of young persons. Love and care are crucial and there are no substitutions.
If parents do not take care of kids, mobile phones could literally take their place. Addiction is not uncommon among adolescents. Parents need to give quality time to their kids, especially from age 4 to 12, the time when their brain is most actively developing. According to research, 95 per cent of brain functions are in place before the age of 7, so this is the so-called golden period for parental care.
On cyberbullying, parents have a major supervisory role to play in prevention and risk mitigation. Unconditional love from parents is probably the most important safeguard. Kids have to cope with things in life mostly on a conditional basis, so unconditional love is very powerful.
Once you are trusted, kids are inclined to talk to you about everything, so please give unconditioned love to them.
On cyber identity, in the older days prior to the advent of the internet and cyber world, people were concerned with just their looks, their appearance in the physical world. There was no cyber appearance and identity as we find on today’s social media platforms. The so-called virtual society is now even more powerful. For example, if you are criticised by another person physically, it may still be okay. It’s just a one-on-one interaction.
However, if there are many other people online who are criticising you on social media platforms, that’s a big deal, especially if it goes viral and results in a bad cyber reputation. Hundreds or even thousands of people online would be aware of the dislikes or negative messages, which unfortunately are not erasable. That hurts, especially when people see their cyber-image as more valuable.
Unconditional love from parents is again the best safeguard for kids if we want to help them navigate the pros and cons of cyberspace. After all, adults and kids need technology to do many things, so it is not possible to be completely offline. Today, most people use Facebook, Line, Instagram etc to communicate. Many will take photos of their special meals and share online and so on.
Today, people have more social pressures due to the need to manage both online and offline images. This is a new phenomenon. Perhaps in another decade or two we will ask for a retreat, to be offline in certain places. I like to be on an aeroplane for 5 to 6 hours when I am offline. It’s peaceful and heavenly.
What is your opinion on how the cyber world effects relationships?
First, we appear to communicate more often using mobile devices and social media, but the increased frequency does not mean a better quality of relationship. For example, your wife or kid may want to see you on a video chat while you’re overseas. Access is easier but the quality is not clear. A small child may talk on a video call for 30 seconds and then get distracted by something else.
Overall, a link between cyberbullying and depression is quite clear among the young population. For senior citizens, the whether there is a link is not yet known, even though many now use social media platforms regularly. However, there are some obvious benefits for older people in terms of cognitive exercise and social interaction online.
One example is my father. He’s 87, and uses social media to interact with friends.
In short, there are both pros and cons as far as social media technology and mobile devices are concerned. The advice is to give unconditional love to kids to deal with the negative consequences of cyberspace. Make sure you give them enough time.