Woman nearly loses daughters because of online addiction
She got addicted to the Internet and could not wean herself off.
She even engaged in online activities of a sexual nature.
The married woman's addiction eventually cost her: She nearly lost access to her three young daughters and ended up fighting a long, drawn-out battle to get more access.
During divorce proceedings in 2012, her husband produced evidence of her online activities and sought custody of their daughters.
He alleged that her online activities were causing her to neglect the children, and she was a less suitable parent.
The district judge agreed, and granted him interim care and control of their girls.
The mother, in turn, was only allowed limited access to them.
For the next two years, the woman only saw her daughters on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings from 5pm to 7.30pm and either Saturday or Sunday evenings.
Her girls had to return home after meeting her.
The woman's addiction to the Internet and engaging in online activities of a sexual nature is not unique. (See report on facing page.)
Details of the custody case were published in a High Court judgement earlier this month after the woman sought to gain greater access to her daughters.
The names of the couple have been redacted to protect the children's identity.
Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao reported that the couple, who were married in 2000, are in their late 40s.
In her application, the woman told the court that she wanted to spend more time with her daughters - twins aged 13 and an 11-year-old - as they were growing older and needed maternal care.
It was not the first time she had made an application. Her previous attempt in April 2014 to spend more time with her daughters had been denied by the High Court. Then, she had submitted two psychiatric reports and applied for overnight and overseas access to the children.
Although the High Court judge denied her application, the mother was allowed to apply for a review at the Family Court in 2015.
In July 2015, she did and applied to the High Court for shared care and control of her children.
In the judgement, Judicial Commissioner Debbie Ong, who was presented with the mother's latest application on Sept 7 last year, noted that the children indicated they wished to spend more time with their mother.
The judge also noted that the mother had made attempts to change her circumstances.
First, she had found a comfortable home in a condominium, and the children enjoyed access to her new place.
She had also found stable employment and made good progress dealing with her addiction.
The Judicial Commissioner eventually did not grant care and control to the mother but allowed her more time with the girls.
She wrote in the judgement: "The children had expressed that they enjoyed their access time with the mother, and I found that the mother had made good use of the access time to bond with the children and to build a loving relationship with them."
She added: "I was of the view that it would be in the children's welfare for the father to continue to have care and control, and for the mother to be granted increased and overnight access to the children.
"This is so that the children can interact even more meaningfully with the mother, who undoubtedly adds a dimension of parenting which is invariably different from what the father can offer."
Doc: Female Net addiction rare but on the rise
Though it is still unusual, a psychiatrist in private practice said he has seen an increase in the number of cases involving Internet addiction and online sexual activities among women over the past three years.
"I've seen cases where the husband is able to provide tons of evidence in court - pictures, scans and sometimes even sexually explicit photos," said Dr Munidasa Winslow, who specialises in dealing with addictions at Promises Healthcare.
He cited a case where he was called to court to assess the woman's suitability as a parent.
In the case, the woman felt her husband had all the control in their relationship.
Wanting to feel powerful, she surfed websites with dominatrix themes and got hooked.
During their divorce proceedings, her husband produced overwhelming evidence she had visited these adult-themed sites.
He also argued that she had dominatrix tendencies and was therefore an unsuitable parent.
Internet addiction, especially cyber gaming, however, is still more prevalent among the young.
When it happens with adults, it is usually because they are depressed and have problems with their work and relationships, say psychiatrists.
Dr Winslow said women get addicted to the Internet for three reasons.
"When they are online, they feel like they are in control - a complete opposite to how they feel in real life.
"Pornography or online games could have a numbing effect on their emotions.
"Lastly, they feel that the fantasy world is much better than the real world."
He said that addiction to online pornography is less common among women. Instead, they usually turn to relationship sites.
"For women, it's not just about sex. They want to feel appreciated and rewarded.
"So it usually starts with chatting, before it gets more sexually explicit."
Dr Thomas Lee, who treats addiction cases at The Resilienz Clinic, said that he hardly comes across adult female Internet addicts but it could be due to the stigma of seeking help, especially if their online activities are of a sexual nature.
"Men have sought help for porn addiction and they have told me that they watch porn with their wives.
"Female Internet addicts might be rare, in terms of those who come forward to seek help.
"But with the increased use of technology, including online porn, mobile games and social media, problems will exist.
"Initially, the spouse might close one eye, but when the divide becomes too wide, and conflicts too many, they will start to seek help."
Signs of Net addiction
- Losing track of time and using the Internet longer than intended
- Feeling irritable when disrupted from using the Internet
- Feelings of guilt, especially when family members nag at the excessive use of the Internet
- Isolation from offline or real relationships with family and friends
- Physical signs such as exhaustion due to lack of sleep, dry eyes and weight gain
Source: Media Literacy Council website
National Addictions Management Service (NAMS)
Monday to Friday: 8.30am to 10pm
WE CARE Community Service
Monday to Friday: 8.30am to 9pm
Saturday: 10am to 8pm