Parents beware! Mobile phones are ruining your children

  • Abid Bashir
  • Publish Date: Sep 2 2018 10:43PM
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  • Updated Date: Sep 2 2018 10:43PM
Parents beware!  Mobile phones are ruining your childrenRepresentational Image

Abid Bashir talks to child psychologists and paediatricians to bring out how the unrestrained use of technology is harming the kids, both in psychological and physiological ways 

For 30-year-old Bushra, a Srinagar resident, it was a three-year painful wait after her marriage before she could conceive. And in year 2015, she finally gave birth to a baby boy. The news of boy’s birth brought smiles on the faces of her parents and in-laws.

Bushra’s husband works in a private mobile company. The couple named the child as Umar. With twinkling eyes and golden brown hair, little Umar since his birth refused to take his mother’s milk and the doctors put him on the baby milk available in the market called Nan-one. Perhaps this was the first sign which Umar showed of Post Traumatic Symptoms that almost every Kashmiri new born has, given the perpetual strife in the region.

As Umar grew up, he developed other symptoms like sleeping disorder as he would wake up in the middle of the night and refuse to sleep till the dawn. “When he turned one, he started fiddling with the mobile phone of his father,” says Bushra. “Given my child’s age, he couldn’t unlock the device but would often bang the phone screen whenever his father was home. I never allowed him to touch my phone.”

Having more attachment with his father, Umar would demand mobile phone every evening when his father returned from the job. “As he grew up, he learned how to unlock his father’s device. I was shocked to see my son remember the unlock pattern his father had kept for his phone. This was strange as my son was just two-and-a half year-old.”

At present Umar is three-year-old and he is the main source of exhausting the battery of his father’s mobile phone. “From games to watching cartoons, to listening to nursery rhymes, he does it all. He has even started downloading movies also,” says Bushra.  In Kashmir, every kid is like Umar. In some cases, kids don’t even allow their parents to pick up calls.

Doctors in Kashmir attribute this behavioural change to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) stating that mother of almost every new born has witnessed trauma in her life as being the citizen of a conflict zone which ultimately affects the new baby. “Every new born has symptoms of trauma witnessed by his/her mother,” doctors say.

In Kashmir, Umar is not the only one who is treading path of a disaster, according to doctors, every child in Kashmir is addicted to mobile phones.

Doctor Yasir Wani, consultant paediatrician and neonatologist with the J&K government, believes the use of digital technology has grown rapidly in the last decade among kids. “During use, mobile phones emit radio frequency (RF) radiation. No previous generation has been exposed during childhood and adolescence to this kind of radiation. The brain is the main target organ for RF emissions from the handheld wireless phone,” Wani says. “An evaluation of the scientific evidence on the brain tumour risk was made in May 2011 by the international agency for research on Cancer at World Health Organisation (WHO). The scientific panel reached the conclusion that RF radiation from devices that emit non-ionizing RF radiation in the frequency range 30 khz to 300 Ghz is a group 2 B, that is, a possible human carcinogen.”

Wani says that with respect to health implications of digital (wireless) technologies, it is of importance that neurological diseases, physiological addiction, cognition, sleep and behavioural problems are considered in addition to cancer.

Another study, DrWani says, titled “The world Unplugged Project” asked students to remain without phones for 24 hours, more than 50 per cent of students failed to go the full 24 hours and every one claimed to suffer some kind of withdrawal symptoms. “Many students compared the experience of going without digital technology to missing a limb (phantom limb syndrome). The study concluded that most kids and teens whether in developed or developing countries are addicted to their mobile phones,” he says. “Use of mobile phones by children has other dangerous side effects like text claw, and cell phone elbow, and text neck, computer vision syndrome.”

Doctor AkritiHussain, a child psychologist and therapist from Srinagar seconds DrWani and says, “Radiation emanating from the mobile phones is very hazardous for the kids. The high speed and visual stimulus overload that children get from screen time makes it harder from them to adjust to the healthy and steady stimulus provided in the natural environment and in classroom.”

DrHussain says, therefore, the children find most other things less exciting and harder to leave mobiles and television forming a destructive circle. “It is like watching a video on fast mode and then suddenly being forced to watch on slow motion speed which would provide no stimulation for them. It promotes a phenomenon called instant gratification,” she says. “About learning from the videos, one of the ways in which children learn is through imitation and therefore by watching these videos and shows they learn behaviour from them which often promote aggressive and unrealistic behaviour.”

DrHussain says that it leads to communication issues as screen time cuts off precious talk time between family members and children—the primary way in which children develop language  and communication.  Asked about the remedies, the doctor says parents must bring the change. “Parents must restrict the use of mobile phones among kids to weekends with time limits. On way of making this possible is through community based promotion of extracurricular enriching activities to channel their energy in a healthy manner,” she says. “Parents must be the change they want in their children.”

She says Kashmir needs to promote community based entertainment and that can be started from the young lot. “The kids can be attracted to paintings or cultural events acceptable to the society to keep them away from mobile phones,” she says. “Parents, teachers and doctors have to chip in to help kids stay normal. Teachers and doctors can play more important role as they are the professionals.”

As per the study done by PriyankaMatanhelia, Ph.D, which she submitted to University of Maryland, under the title “Use of mobile phones among young adults in India”, the main objective of the study was to examine the use of mobile phones to fulfil communication, media and age-related needs by young people in India and to investigate regional and gender differences.

“The study was conducted in two phases using a mixed-methods approach. In the first phase, in-depth interviews were conducted with 30 college-going young adults (18 – 24 years) in Mumbai and Kanpur in December 2007 and January 2008. In the second phase, a survey was conducted with 400 college-going young adults (18 – 24 years) in Mumbai and Kanpur,” the study reads. “The qualitative analysis of the data showed that young people in both the cities used cell phones for a variety of communication, news and entertainment needs.”

The study says additionally the young adults considered cell phones as personal items and used them to store private content, maintain privacy and have private conversations. “Further, the analysis showed that they used cell phones to negotiate independence from parents and to maintain friendships and create friendships with members of opposite sex,” the study says. “The quantitative analysis of the data revealed that young people in the two cities used cell phones differently due to the differences in their lifestyles and socio-cultural factors.”

Additionally, the study found there were only a few gender differences in the use of cell phones by young people, mainly in the use of cell phones for entertainment purposes, negotiation of independence from parents and in forming friendships with members of opposite sex.

Finally the study concluded that young people in India mainly use cell phones for private communication and needs.

(Bushra and Umar are not the real names of the persons)