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Screen addiction in children is concerning

Screen addiction in children is concerning
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By: Uzma Nazir

“You don’t even realise how much you need internet, but it really stops you from doing a lot”

These days, most of us are in front of our mobile screens around the clock. We scroll our phones for fun, use our computers for work, and unwind each night in front of the television. Children enjoy playing video games on their parent’s smartphones or watching YouTube videos on these devices.

The use of screens increased manifold during COVID-19 pandemic as children used screen for educational purposes as well as for dealing with the boredom of lockdown. Parents also find it easier to manage their children for a long period due to their own busy schedule. Now in present times, the phenomenon of screen addiction in children is increasingly prevalent, posing significant challenges to their physical, mental and emotional well being.

Understanding screen addiction:

“Screen time is not just TV time”, says paediatrician Lolita Mc David, MD, screen time is anything electronic your children can access”.

Screen addiction, also known as internet addiction or digital addiction refers to the excessive and compulsive use of digital devices and online activities to the extent that it interferes with daily life responsibilities and activities. From physical eye strain and increased risk for weight gain to mental health consequences and sleep disturbances, time spent with our devices has tangible effects on our well being.

Causes and Contributing Factors:

Several factors contribute to the development of screen addiction in children, which may be enlisted as follows:

  1. Accessibility: With the proliferation of smartphone and tablets, screens are readily accessible to children at home, school and even in social setting at an early age.
  2. Engaging Content: Many apps, games and online platforms are designed to be highly engaging and addictive capturing children’s attention for extended periods.
  3. Social pressure: Peer influence and the desire to fit in can drive children to spend excessive time on social media and online gaming platforms to stay connected with friends.
  4. Parental influence: Parents who excessively use screens themselves or fail to set limits on their children’s screen time may inadvertently contribute to the development of screen addiction.
  5. Digitized World: Nowadays, we are living in a digital world. These gadgets have become necessity for us as every single activity is performed through online mode. Inadvertently, unknowingly everyone is becoming more and more engaged with mobile phones and laptops. Which has also resulted in screen addiction among our youth.

Impact on Children:

  1. Physical Health: Excessive screen time is associated with a sedentary lifestyle, leading to an increased risk of obesity, poor posture and sleep disturbances. Also, it includes soreness in the neck, spine and eyes and fingers.
  2. Mental Health: It leads to anxiety, depression and mood swings. Excessive exposure also lead to impair cognitive development and attention span.
  3. Social Development: Children who spend excessive time in front of screens may struggle with social skills, face to face communication and forming meaningful relationship bonds. Children with screen addiction are usually unsocial band try to remain in loneliness spending most of their time with mobile phones.
  4. Academic performance: Screen addictive children struggle to focus and pay attention to their studies which results in a decline in interest in their studies. Due to their dependency on technology, they also struggle to memorize the lectures. Everything readily available on internet has resulted in a decline in creativity and writing skill among our children.

Addressing Screen Addiction:

Parents, educators, healthcare professionals and policymakers can jointly work to prevent and addressing screen addiction in children.

Setting Limits: No screen time for babies under 6months old and establishing consistent screen time limit is essential as parents should model healthy screen screen habits and rules at home.

Promoting Alternatives: Encouraging children to engage in physical activity, hobbies and face to face interactions can help reduce reliance on screens for entertainment.

Educating Families: Inform parents about the importance of balanced screen time and the signs of screen addiction can empower them to make informed decisions.

Creating Safe Spaces: Schools can create screen free zones and incorporate digital literacy education into the curriculum to help students develop critical thinking skills and responsible digital citizenship.

Also it is the responsibility of parents to find out how much time your child spends online and what he/she posts or reads on social media. Some kids watch R rated movies, acquire drugs, excess pornography, go into sex chat rooms send images to their friends .Parents should be caution regarding these things.

Discourage using electronics at the dining table. The  benefits of eating meals together should be appreciated by elders at homes.

Parents should not allow phone use during bed time so that children may get a good night’s rest.

.Seeking Support: If screen addiction is suspected, seeking support from mental health professionals and counsellors can provide children and families with the necessary tools and strategies to address underlying issues and develop healthier screen habits.

Conclusion: Screen addiction among children is a complex and challenging issue that requires collective action and awareness. While technology offers many benefits, it is essential to strike a balance and ensure that children’s screen time is moderated and purposeful. By prioritising healthy screen habits and promoting alternative activities, we can mitigate the negative impacts of screen addiction and support the well-being of our children in the digital age.

(The author works as a headmistress at a private school)

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