Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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Perils of Smartphone Addiction in Kids


In the digital era, it is challenging for parents to steer their children away from electronic devices, notably mobile phones. With the daily proliferation of digital technology, it’s common for households to possess multiple smartphones. Medical professionals emphasize the addictive nature of the online world and its potential detrimental effects on a child’s holistic development.

Dr Suhail Naik, Assistant Professor New Children Hospital, GMC Srinagar in an interview with Rising Kashmir’s senior health correspondent, M Peerzada talks about how parents can help their children develop a healthy relationship with smartphones and technology.

What are the key warning signs or symptoms that may indicate a child is developing a smartphone addiction?

Smartphone addiction is a common unrecognised problem both in children and adults. It is simply physical and psychological dependence on cell phones.

Smartphone addiction is like drug addiction and one develops intense psychological and physical symptoms, whenever a cell phone is kept away from a person, or there is non-availability of a network or internet snag.

The symptoms are restlessness, irritability, excessive crying, anger, tension, fatigability and loss of appetite. Such persons have an irresistible desire to use the cell phone more and more often to subconsciously achieve pleasure and calmness.

Further, whenever such persons are in stressful situations, or depressed they remain glued to cell phones. Sometimes the use is so excessive that they get imbibed into it and get disoriented and not unable to perform normal day-to-day functioning. Smartphone addiction can put relationships, professional careers or jobs at risk.

Furthermore, due to excessive use, they develop many physical symptoms like neck pain, headache, vision problems, spine issues and hand numbness.

Are specific age groups more vulnerable to smartphone addiction, if so, what factors contribute to this vulnerability?

People across all age groups are susceptible to mobile phone addiction including children, adolescents and adults, but teens are more likely to become addicted to cell phones than any other age group.

According to a study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, adolescents under 20 years old are the most at-risk for cell phone addiction, because this age group is more likely to experience behavioural problems as they haven’t developed self-control skills yet.

Kids are also susceptible to cell phone addiction and it is the responsibility of the parents to keep them away from its excessive usage.

As per American Academy of Paediatrics guidelines, the recommended screen time below 2 years of age should be zero and after 2 years of age, it should be 1 hour in a day.

Unfortunately, parents give smartphones to their kids to calm them, feed them and keep them glued to their phones without spending a positive time with their children.

What are the most effective strategies for parents to help their children develop a healthy relationship with smartphones and technology?

First thing first, in today’s online arena, keeping children away from a screen is a huge challenge and task for parents. Though we discussed many harmful effects and disadvantages of smartphone addiction, the recommended use of smartphones is not without benefits. Smartphones/tablets are becoming essential tools of learning for children nowadays. But their use should be limited and parents should observe in children.

Parents must understand that it is highly addictive and might have an unfavourable impact on the child’s development. Though it is a daunting task to keep your children away from gadgets, it may result in withdrawal symptoms including low appetite and temper tantrums.

Is there any creative way to break a child’s addiction towards smartphones?

Kids have a lot of energy and it should be invested effectively. Make sure your kids do something active frequently and involve them in different tasks like playing, painting, reading or writing. It’s important to break up screen time and move around.

Prioritize things and ensure your child finishes homework, studying, and housework before they get on the mobile device. This helps in setting the priorities straight right from a young age and this thing gets incorporated into their thinking process that education is a priority and cell phones are secondary.

To come out of the problem, families should have a systematic approach to help their children use media responsibly right from the beginning. They shouldn’t use smartphones as a reward or distraction phones during mealtime and no TV or phone before sleep.

Further, parents should give ample time to their children. They must play both indoor and outdoor games with them and engaging your child in activities like cleaning, cooking or gardening, will keep her away from smartphones.

Physical play stimulates the brain. Activities that involve physical movements allow children to use their energy and give children the chance to develop gross and fine motor skills, learn new things and socialize. It hugely benefits the physical and mental health of a child.

Are there proven methods or interventions for treating smartphone addiction in children?

One of the recent studies scanned the participants’ brains with a phone addiction and discovered a change in their brain’s grey matter. The researchers found that the physical shape and size of their brains resembled that of drug users. Grey matter volume among people addicted to their phones diminished in critical areas, a condition similarly observed in people with a substance use disorder.

There are ways to combat and treat the disorder. There are specialized addiction treatment centres that can help. Some of these smartphone detox centres offer a variety of programs to help their patients kick their digital addiction.

Preventing smartphone addiction in kids requires a combination of education, setting boundaries, and providing alternative activities. Parents and caregivers need to take an active role in managing their child’s phone addiction to ensure a healthy and balanced childhood.

Are there cultural or regional variations to prevent the impact of smartphone addiction among children?

Without evidence pointing to the influence of cultural level and socioeconomic status, the pattern of abuse is greatest among young people, primarily females. Intercultural and geographical differences have not been sufficiently studied. Similarly, sleep disturbance, anxiety, stress, and, to a lesser extent, depression, which are also associated with internet abuse, have been associated with problematic cell phone use.

How can people encourage physical activities for children?

Ensure that your child allocates ample time away from technology within the home environment, encouraging outdoor play and other physical pursuits. If excessive screen time is a concern, contemplate imposing restrictions on device usage. Actively participating in activities alongside your child serves as an excellent strategy to guarantee that physical games are not only enjoyable but also sufficiently stimulating to maintain their interest.



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