We live in a world of frequently updating advanced technologies and emerging innovative gadgets. The number of children who are exposed to mobile phones and the internet is increasing day by day. A recent order by the National Press and Public Administration of the Chinese Government restricts children in the country from video gaming to one and a half hours and a maximum of three hours during holidays. This regulation eyes at preventing the health hazards among children due to the unrestricted use of gadgets, and ensures their physical as well as mental well being.
A case reported at the Child Psychiatric Department of Thiruvananthapuram Medical College points at the appalling level of an increase in the use of gadgets by children. The child who was brought for consultation was merely four years of age, and cannot live without a mobile phone. The child’s parents initially used the mobile phone as a measure to engage the child, as they were both working, and finally, he ended up with ‘screen addiction’.
Psychiatrists use the term ‘screen addiction‘ to refer to the addiction that children develop towards the screens of mobile phones, tablets, iPads, game console, laptops, TV, and computers, etc. This is also known as “technology addiction” or “tech addiction”. The mental state of children who develop this addiction can be compared with those who are addicted to narcotics. In both cases, victims develop the inability to concentrate on studies and day-to-day activities, depression, somnambulism, memory loss, etc.
Screen addiction adversely affects the development of a child’s brain. Scientific studies have proven that the effects of screen addiction vary from the inability to take the right decision, to severe memory loss. It may also lead children to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Behavioural science classifies this as Combined Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder, Inattentive Deficit Hyper Activity, and HyperActive Impulsive Disorder.
The UNICEF report Child Online Protection in India released two years back, points out that around 10 crore children in India step into the world of internet each year. India stands second in the number of people worldwide subscribed to the internet. The Internet and Mobile Association of India in its study titled ‘India Internet 2019’ found that 6.6 crore children aged between 5 and 11 in India are using the internet. Since we are living in a world of technological advancement, it is quite natural that children easily access the internet. Parents who are busy with work also rely on the internet and gadgets as a means to engage children from distracting them from work.
The best way is to get parents to change their attitude. One cannot just blame children for their screen addiction as the addiction always starts with the parents themselves. Parents should realize the harm caused to children when they are exposed to gadgets at a very young age. One thing that can be done to protect children who are severely addicted is to set periodicity and time limit.
Apart from this, one can try to engage them more with outdoor games where physical exercise is involved. Motivating children to read storybooks, creative articles, etc. is also a good way to engage them. Parents usually use gadgets as a means of luring kids while feeding. Why can’t they tell them stories or sing to them instead? It is also important to create healthy interaction between parents and children where the children get a chance to be heard. Attention-deficit is the root cause behind most of the screen addiction cases, and hence parents should realize that ‘our children are our children,’ and it’s us, who they would turn to for help. Parents should not get them addicted to screen in the first place to reduce their workload.