POST TIME: 10 October, 2019 09:55:37 AM
Children’s addiction to tech growing problem

Children’s addiction to tech growing problem

Meet Yusuf Zareef, a seven year-old and a first-grader. He already takes selfies and uploads them on Facebook. He also uploads videos on his own YouTube channel and enjoys playing video games on his mother’s mobile phone.

"Without these, life would be boring and unimaginable," he says. Mehjabeen Nowmy, a four-year-old girl, does not pay heed to anyone when she gets hold of a smartphone. She does not make eye contact with anyone because of her fascination with the gadget.

This is a familiar scenario for many parents. Most of them do not find anything wrong with this preoccupation with technology and social media. They are oblivious of the harmful effects of too much screen time on their kids.

But experts warn that there are clinical problems associated with excessive use of social media and other Internet-based technologies. Being engrossed in technology can damage the social and functional skills of kids. It can result in loss of sleep at night and lack of concentration during classes. And the psychological aspect is overwhelming as well.

As children and adolescents find their delight in smartphones and the Internet, they are turning away from healthy social activities. They are slowly turning into unsocial beings who prefer a virtual reality instead of the real world. This delusion causes mental disorders that sometimes lead to suicides.  

According to the National Institute of Mental Health and Hospital (NIMHH), at least 500–600 children and teenagers with mental disorders come to the institute every month to consult the psychiatrist. And the number is increasing day by day. The World Health Organszation (WHO) says mental disorders affect 18.4 per cent of children in the country.

Against this backdrop the country will observe today (Thursday) ‘World Mental Health Day’. This year’s theme is ‘Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention’.

NIMHH director Dr Mohit Kamal said that children became frustrated when their expectations were not fulfilled. "A child requires psychological support during the teen years. But they often do not get the support and take extreme decisions," he noted.

“As children find their delight in the smartphone, they are turning away from social activities. They are getting involved in different types of unsocial activities and crimes,” he said. “We give smartphones to primary school children. But such gadgets seriously harm their mental health,” he added.  

Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, with mental disorders being among the leading cause of ill-health and disability worldwide. Around 10–20 per cent of children and adolescents experience mental disorders around the globe. Half of all mental illnesses begin by the age of 14 and three-quarters by mid-20s, according to the WHO. Dr Helal Uddin Ahmed, associate professor at NIMH, said a website or online game containing aggression, violence or adult material could affect the psychology of kids and change their conduct. “Violent video games can make them aggressive. Frustration and depression may soon follow,” he added.

Dr Mohit Kamal said that parents should ensure that their kids access only suitable content in the virtual world. "In fact, parents should maintain maximum security on their devices and use safe browsing software for their kids," he added. “Parents and teachers can play a very important role here. They should educate children about the ideal use of the Internet for positive purposes. They can openly talk about the websites that are good and the ones that are harmful,” he observed.