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Social media addiction prompting major mental health crisis among Vietnamese youth – VnExpress International


Khang lives with his grandmother as his parents often go on long business trips, so he has complete freedom to use his phone and computer.

When his mother decided to work closer to home earlier this year to better care for her son, she decided to focus all her resources on getting him into a specialized high school.

But Khang’s mother found that his academic performance was declining. And that had been the case for some time. He was irritable and tired all the time, and began to withdraw socially.

Khang’s story, which is just beginning, illustrates the profound impact of social media addiction on young minds. These digital dependencies, where turbulent personal and academic lives unravel, and whose most hopeful endgame includes interventions and support systems to recover and rebuild healthier futures.

One day, Khang’s mother inadvertently checked her son’s phone and saw that he was participating in self-harm groups on social media. The family decided to confiscate the phone, but Khang attempted suicide.

Fortunately he didn’t make it, but that’s how he ended up in the hospital.

‘Blood comforts me’

When he was admitted to Mai Huong Mental Hospital in Hanoi’s Hai Ba Trung district earlier this month, Khang said he liked “watching pictures of accidents and blood because they comfort me.” He also told doctors he couldn’t give up social media.

After numerous examinations and tests, Khang was diagnosed with social media addiction and severe depression, and had to be admitted to the hospital for treatment.

Similarly, the 16-year-old daughter of a woman named Hong, who lives in Hanoi’s Thanh Xuan district, was hospitalized due to an anxiety disorder triggered by social media addiction last year.

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Hong said her daughter was glued to her phone 24/7, including when eating, going to bed, and even when taking a bath. She would often stay up all night “surfing” the Internet until extreme exhaustion would eventually render her unconscious. But still, all it took was a “ping” from her phone for her to wake up immediately.

Hong then limited her daughter’s phone use to three hours a day.

The girl didn’t take it well.

“When she was forbidden to use her phone, she was always irritable and would often use her phone when I was not at home anyway,” Hong said, adding that her daughter quickly lost weight and became isolated by never leaving her room.

The girl then said she began to regularly hear voices in her ears.

Hong took her to a health center for a diagnosis and it was discovered that her daughter had depression and symptoms of schizophrenia. She was prescribed medication and psychotherapy, and was no longer allowed to use her phone.

Internetism

According to the WHO, symptoms of social media addiction include constant internet use and an increasing demand for the internet when it is not available, to the point where people feel sad and tired when they do not have access to the internet. Some people use the internet as a distraction through which they can try to escape from their real-world problems.

Social media addiction is widespread in Vietnam. A report by Digital 2021 revealed that Vietnamese people use the internet for an average of six hours and 47 minutes a day, and spend two hours and 21 minutes on social media. Although there are no official statistics on the number of teenagers addicted to social media yet, the rate of young people suffering from mental problems is increasing and social media is a contributing factor, experts have reported.

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A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that children ages 12 to 15 who use social media for more than three hours a day have twice the risk of developing mental health problems than those who don’t use it. Experts also said that excessive social media use can expose people to harmful and dangerous content, as well as lead to feelings of inadequacy when comparing themselves to others online. Those are just a couple of the countless potential negative effects of social media.

Vuong Nguyen Toan Thien, a specialist director at Lumos Psychological Services, said there should be more education and communication to raise awareness about the harmful effects of social media. According to Thien, for starters, people should be taught to protect their own personal information and avoid the risks of cyberbullying.





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