We live in a digital technology era and it is a blessing, but every coin has two sides. Technology makes our life easier but also quite dependent. It influences the way we behave and alters our thinking. The perfect example of such technology is the smartphone, with unlimited internet access. Nowadays it has become a trend to engage our children with the mobile phone to distract them from other demands.
However, each and every parent today is concerned about the impact of mobile phones on their kids. We can see children using these devices all day. Some kids can be seen talking to their friends for long hours, some can be seen playing games and watching videos. Teenagers have their own cell phones which they are attached to 24/7. No doubt that mobile phones are quite beneficial in some ways but we cannot deny the fact that they lead to massive loss in time spent on studies and other activities.
There was a recent survey of children aged 6-19 in Australia, Europe, North America and Asia, which found that 72% of children and 89% of adolescents have their own smartphones. Most of these children use their phone during bed time and the problem with this is that it affects sleep duration and also the quality of sleep.
Essentially, when you use smartphones before bed your brain is receiving constant stream of light from the phone and this basically tells your brain to stay awake. The light from the phone actually suppresses the hormone “Melatonin” which is normally involved in getting your body ready for sleep. The high energy from shortwave-length light emanating from the phone screen, also called blue light, prevents the body from getting to the required state of sleep. Use of mobile phone during bed time results in lack of ability to fall asleep. Normally, darkness leads to release of Melatonin but the light from the phone screen stops that.
Several studies have proven that excessive use of mobile phones by children may cause non-malignant tumours, especially in the regions of ear and brain. The radiations can have dangerous effects on the human body, especially of kids, directly affecting the nervous system. It has been classified by the WHO as a “possible carcinogen” that carries potential risk of cancer.
Due to the addictive content of the mobile phones, it is likely that the children may get glued to the phone throughout the day without much interaction with friends and family. This will in turn make the kids dangerously introvert and anti social. Compassion, caring, righteousness, all such qualities come by interacting with people.
It doesn’t require deep study to understand that kids these days are so indulged in phones that they pay no attention to studies. By using cell phones excessively, a child’s brain may actually be damaged by radiation. This can cause changes in mood patterns and behavioural tendencies. Children may find it difficult to learn new things or focus properly.
Kids could also come across inappropriate messages, images or texts despite parental surveillance. Exchanging images irresponsibly can also lead to trouble.
With children glued to mobile phones, they don’t engage in physical activities. This puts them at risk of obesity and other illnesses which can later develop into harmful diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.
How to reduce a child’s smartphone addiction
Be strict: Strictness is not all about abruptly taking away the mobile phone from the child; it means a rule set for everyone. Children quickly learn from the surroundings, so every family member has to reduce the use of mobile phones and behave responsibly.
Ignore tantrums: Tantrums are the best tool for children to blackmail their parents with. Whenever children are stopped from doing something, they start throwing tantrums. Don’t react to their tantrums. When they get tired of crying and screaming, they will understand that their tantrums are not going to work anymore.
Understand your child’s interest: Whether it is indoor or outdoor activity, engage the child’s mind in something he or she is interested in. If your child is interested in drawing, then provide him or her with colours and drawing books. This has the added benefit of encouraging the child to be creative.
Switch to television: The advantage of using television instead of mobile phone to keep the child engaged is control. You can control what the child watches and fix a schedule for TV watching.
Appreciate positive changes: When you start to notice changes in the child’s behaviour and actions, never forget to appreciate them with rewards. For example, if you feel that your child is spending more time in colouring instead of on the mobile phone, then reward them with few extra minutes of watching cartoons or an ice cream treat. It is the best way to make them excited and to guide them towards other interesting activities.
The writer is a student at Aligarh Muslim University. [email protected]