O’Hara couple is facing an issue while feeding their 4 year old kid Sarah who would throw tantrums unless her electronic toy tiger is brought and set into action. She eats peacefully as the tiger does all acrobatics and eventually, every morsel of food served is consumed by the kid. The couple heaves a sigh of relief failing to realize they are heading towards bigger trouble for days to come.
Deya, a 10th grader gearing up for GCSE has her attention fixed on her iphone more than on studies. The ‘ping’ of the smart phone is so irresistible that she rushes to check the latest messages and social media postings by her friends diverting her attention from the activity on which she was engaged.
Such examples are countless! Apparently harmless, playing with an electronic gadget, watching youtube or checking smart phone messages doesn’t tantamount to a crime but what about when things go overboard?
Addiction is the word to watch!
And what the research studies reveal?
- 9 out of 10 teens are online everyday unable to fight the lure of Facebook.
- Parents find it tough monitoring their teenager kid’s onscreen activities as 71% of them are active in more than one social media channel.
- 24% of teenagers aged between 13 and 17 years continuously check their mobile devices even when they are at school.
- In another survey with 500+ teenagers of 13-18 years old revealed that 29% of them spent more than 8 hours online. 36% admitted to falling asleep regularly with their smart phones. 67% admitted reaching out to smart phones while feeling bored.
Playing with a gadget is one thing and getting absorbed in it for hours being oblivious to the world around is entirely a different matter. These are the first signs of juvenile mental disorder. The children are not always to be blamed. The age is vulnerable.
They get lured by easy access to engagements that look great, offering bouts of pleasure. Temporary ecstatic moments invade their perception of feel good ambience but at the same time these instantaneous reliefs often impair their balanced growth.
What harm can gadget addiction cause?
- Growing reluctance in outdoor activities. This affects the learning capacity of the children and they start exhibiting behavioral problems.
- It makes a kid physically inactive paving way for childhood obesity.
- Spending hours on handheld devices affects the physical development of kids specially the toddlers.
- Kids may be subjected to ‘Internet use disorder’, a serious mental ailment.
- Impaired learning capacity of the toddlers because at this age the brain is at the developing stage and they learn better through direct interaction with the external world.
- Prolonged exposure to mobile screen lights affects the quality of sleep.
- Too much social media engagement is another cause of rising depression cases among the teenagers.
The rapidly expanding urban world is to share a larger portion of the blame. Playing grounds have almost disappeared and are replaced by high-rise buildings. In absence of play grounds and friends to play with, the kids feel mentally and physically isolated. Even if he/she has found a group of friends there isn’t any good outdoors to get into physical activity or outdoor games.
Other kids share the same issue and consequently, the group takes to watching adult pornography or playing computer games. This has a severe damaging impact on their healthy cognitive development.
Often peer pressure also turns out to be significant motivator. Possessing the ability to handle gadgets with dexterity helps a kid establish a superior social status among the peers. If you are not acquainted with gadgets and online games you are outdated museum stuff. Even parents consider this as a great achievement or a sign of smartness.
Urban lifestyle and advent of modern gadgets make for a devastating combination and adversely affect the initial years of the kids when the mind is tender and moldable. A number of schools are wary and worried about the reign of smart phones and electronic gimmicks. They have stringent rulings against kids bringing in their mobile phones to school.
Mental disorders rooted in childhood:
Most of the cognitive impairment in adults has their history buried in childhood traumas. Lack of physical games, emotional detachment with parents, heavy dependency on gadgets and the television and obvious inclination towards obscene and unhealthy choices of entertainment would certainly amount to a trauma.
Here healthy childhood is the first casualty of the assault of mindless urbanization. At present our lads that bloom into the stage of pubescence are confronted with the DGP (Drugs, Games, Porn) syndrome. With the rise in this syndrome, the frequency of emotional contact with parents has shrunk.
But somewhere the parents should learn to draw the line. Handing expensive gadgets to kids is not a sign of good parenting. It is more important to stay emotionally attached with them. More the parent remains aloof from the kids more they develop the tendency of gadget addiction.
Involvement with the kids, more interaction and supporting activities should be a regular affair to make the kids feel the real world. Excessive dwelling in the virtual world would damage the cognitive abilities of a kid making him/her incapable of fighting the real life situation.
Maintaining balance is the key:
Keeping the kids specially the teenagers away from gadgets is impossible nowadays but what we can do is guide them properly preventing them from getting addicted. Internet use has lots of benefits that can’t be denied but care is to be taken not to get obsessed with it.
Adults too need to follow the same practice of restricted gadget usage before advising the same for the kids. After all, kids pick up habits mostly from home. It is a good sign that many schools are suggesting digital detox programs for kids. But it is better to check the habit beforehand than to get into any sort of therapeutic assistance and here the role of parents would be highly decisive.