The Hush Post: Excessive use of mobile phones, tabs, i-pads and other electronic gadgets have taken the form of an addiction. New research has claimed that prolonged gadget use can lead to “Screen Dependency Disorder.”
The updated guidelines from the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) has recommended a maximum of one hour screen time a day for kids aged 2 to 5 years old. Ask any mother in India, she would agree that kids in India are hooked to the screens in one form or the other for longer periods of time than should be.
Excessive use of screen can cause sleep problems, non-development of child’s social skills and brain development.
Screen Dependency Disorder (SDD), which is quite similar to Internet Addiction Disorder, refers to screen-related ‘addictive’ behaviour. Dr Aric Sigman, a US-based psychologist has written a research paper ‘Screen Dependency Disorders: A new challenge for child neurology’.
Kids with SDD grab their device the moment they wake up, eat at the table with their eyes glued to the screen, keep away from other children their age, avoid visiting other people’s homes, and maybe carry their gadget wherever they go.
The symptoms of the disorder are headaches, taking poor nutrition, insomnia, weight gain or loss, eyesight problems, backache. Emotionally too, a child is affected as he suffers from feeling of isolation, mood swings, agitated state, guilt, loneliness, anxiety and sometimes even dishonesty.
Studies have revealed young brains are affected by screen addiction. It affects impulse control (part of the brain that tells you to get work done), along with the brain’s capacity to plan, prioritise and organise. It leads to inefficient information processing and poor task performance. It also damages an area in the brain known as ‘insula’ which develops empathy and compassion for others.
To take away your child from getting hooked to screens, indulge them in real activities not virtual. So instead of drawing on the smartphone or tablet, parents can motivate their child to draw, scribble, and colour using real art materials. Let them create a mess instead of them remaining clean. Take them vegetable shopping, visiting relatives, for the older ones get them a few board games where they can build structures with blocks, boxes, or other materials that they can manipulate or pile.
It needs the parents’ time initially, if both parents are working, take turns to be with the child, or send them outdoors for walks or strolls with grandparents. Electronic gadgets are a great source of information which can help kids understand many concepts, parents need to encourage them to use it by first doing it themselves.
The bottom line is children should be made to live in real life situations. Gadgets make a virtual world around them, creates a halo of excitement and winnability around them which they think they wouldn’t be able to feel otherwise. They must be encouraged to interact with peers and meet new people face-to-face.