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My Child is always on the phone.
Dr.Shilpa Gupta

“My Child is always on the phone”. Internet and gaming addiction, a common problem

It’s a very well known quotation that Ignorance is bliss but for parents,when it comes to gadgets and internet – Ignorance is the biggest Sin.

 

When many parents share with pride that their child knows more about the phone than them. “He knows all the applications of the phone, that even I don’t know….”. I ask them- How does it benefit his growth? And I hear a silence with an incomplete smile and eyes searching for answers. I realized that many parents are unaware of the impact of using phones for long duration of time. The most common comment heard now a days is “ Merabachcha phone pe lagarehtahai”. i.e. My child is constantly on the phone. The statement itself shows innocence of a parent. They show it as a concern and not as an alarming situation. They appear helpless and clueless of how to handle the child or the phone. Lack of knowledge and awareness is the key to failure. Though a lot of researches, facts and figures are available. I am putting forth the information which is easy for a parent to understand.

 

Before we go forward let us first ask a question, does my child has internet addiction or not? 

 

SIMPLE SIGNS OF INTERNET ADDICTION FOR CHILDREN

 

Below are some of the traits you may see in children who may be addicted to technology:

1. becomes irritable or depressed when not online

2. becomes agitated or moody when time online is interrupted

3. lack of concentration or withdrawal from activities that were enjoyable before he or she had Internet access

4. lies about amount of time spent online or watching television

5. neglects homework or household chores to spend more time online

6. prefers video games to eating or social interaction

7. requires television at night to fall asleep

8. shuts down emotionally or becomes violent when gadgets are taken away


When I was sharing this information in a workshop, a mother of a 10year old child said“ I did not know my child is slipping into addiction”. What is normal time that a child can be on phone? I answered that we cannot separate phone time from TV, facebook, snapchat, whatsapp, gaming and other gadgets. Its collectively called as screen time.

So reframe your question to-
How much would be normal screen time for my child?

 According to new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics 2017

children between the age of 2 and 5 should be limited to only one hour screen time a day. 

 

For children 6 and older, the amount of daily screen time depends on the child and family, but children should prioritize productive time over entertainment time.


( This means children below 2years should not be exposed to any screentime)

Even after so much of knowledge our mind keeps us in denial and that’s because of lack of awareness and knowledge, so let us get familiar with certain researches. Some of the eye opening researches :

 

Harvard University( 2017) stated that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) highlighted some eye-opening revelations to the downside of excessive screen time. The AAP stated that obesity, sleep deprivation, impaired cognitive development, creating unhealthy relationships, and creating unhealthy behaviors (mimicking observed acts of sex, violence, and drug abuse) are all potential risks. Teenagers can easily suffer consequences when they are dependent on these media outlets. 

 

Research at Kings College and Imperial College( 2012) suggest that internet addiction has similar changes to the parts of the brain as is for cocaine addiction. These changes showed that for internet addicts, there was an evidence of disrupting neural pathways in the brain related to emotions, decision-making, and self control. The researchers said earlier studies have found similar white matter changes in the brain scans of people addicted to alcohol, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, meth, and ketamine (also known as "Special K"). 

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/internet-addiction-changes-brain-similar-to-cocaine-study/. 

 

Oxford university press results indicate an association of overweight/obesity with PIU and suggest the importance of formulating preventive public health policies that target physical health, education and sedentary online lifestyle early in adolescence with special attention to boys.

 

In India, NIMHANS, Bangalore  For gaming addiction, 6 children seek help at NIMHANS every week. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/gaming-addiction-6-children-seek-help-at-nimhans-clinic-every-week/articleshow/64676694.cms


It’s time to accept the reality. Reality about our ignorance in the knowledge of over usage of gadgets, associating phones to family status, giving in to the child under the label of peer pressure and thinking internet as an easy source of entertainment and keeping child busy is making us pay a big price. It’s impacting the mental and physical development of our most loved one….our own child.


I certainly believe that change is a constant phenomenon and we can bring a change. The right actions will create right results. The first thought that comes to most parent’s mind is taking away the phone from the child. For younger kids this may work provided parents or other family members phones are not accessible but for older kids who use phone for school work and research, taking away phone is not practical ora permanent solution.

 

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