There is no doubt about the benefits of the Smartphones. Ease of communication, the anywhere, anytime contact with friends, family and in theory, at least the efficiency brought to busy lives. But every technological advance that provides such dramatic benefits has consequential costs too.
Almost 9 out of 10 children in India now have a smartphone. While they can be beneficial in helping children stay in touch with worried parents, the health argument isn’t so clear-cut. Smartphones are psychologically addictive. Unless we get control of the screens which now absorb so much of our kids’ time, it will have harmful effects on your kids.
According to Claudette Avelino-Tandoc, a Family Life and Child Development Specialist and Early Childhood Education consultant, children as young as 3 or 4 years old can have SDD. In an e-mail interview with Smart Parenting, Avelino-Tandoc explains that kids with “Screen Dependency Disorder” or SDD grab their device the moment they wake up and eat at the table with their eyes glued to the screen, playing games, watching shows, or manipulating apps.
The disorder manifests a myriad of symptoms, including insomnia, backache, weight gain or loss, eyesight problems, headaches, and poor nutrition as physical symptoms. Anxiety, dishonesty, feelings of guilt, and loneliness are the emotional symptoms. Many of those who suffer from the disorder prefer to isolate themselves from others and are often agitated and suffer from mood swings.
Based on Sigman’s research, those who are addicted to screens also exhibit dependent, problematic behavior, including withdrawal symptoms, increasing tolerance (for screen use), failure to reduce or stop screen activities, lying about the extent of use, loss of outside interests, and continuation of screen use despite adverse consequences.
While the research for this disorder continues, previous studies show that those with SDD have “microstructural and volumetric differences in, or abnormalities of, both grey and white matter” in the brain, compared to those without, according to Dr. Sigman.
Simply said, SDD can possibly lead to brain damage.
“They should also be alarmed when regular family routine or tasks cannot be performed by the child anymore because he or she cannot be ‘taken out’ from screen time,” she says.
“The parents or caregivers should supply the doctor with their child’s behavior as they have observed at home. He may also have his own set of tests and questions for both the parents and the child,” she added.
She further pointed out:
“Devices or gadgets are not bad per se. They are useful and essential tools for communication, research, learning, entertainment, among other things. Parents are dealing with 21st-century learners, what we call ‘digital natives.’ They should allow their kids to manipulate these tools. However, balance is the key word.”
Parents need to take charge of managing the balanced use of technology at home. Apart from using gadgets, they should be able to encourage their children to develop physically, enhance their language and socio-emotional skills, as well as do hands-on learning.
Managing your child’s screen time may be hard, but we assure you that it’s entirely doable. Just remember to balance technology and real-life learning, and you’ve got it all under control.
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