Fleeting Childhood


Excessive usage of smartphones alter behavioral patterns of children, NIMHANS study shows

By Kurian Joe

Bengaluru: Nowadays it is a common sight to see the toddler’s completely engrossed in a big smartphone, totally oblivious of their surroundings. NIMHANS study shows physical and psychological distress among 6.8 percent of children using smart gadgets.

“My younger daughter is most of the time on the iPad, she refuses to eat without a phone or an Ipad in her hand,” said Mr. Kiran Thomman, a father of three. “If we try to take away the phone, she starts crying and throwing things at us. Rejection makes her really angry and we can’t do much to change this behavior.”

A research done by the psychiatric team in NIMHANS found that physical and psychological distress were present among 6.8 percent mobile phone users, 4.2 percent internet users, and 3 percent social networking site users.

“The impacts are immense based on the time and the application on which one spends time on. If it is social media then one will have difficulties with self-worth and productivity. However, if it’s gaming, the kid will have motivation issues. Excessive screen time could also impair vision and concentration,” said Dr. Dhanushree Perumal, Psychologist.

A mobile phone usage pattern and dependency research report in Karnataka shows that there is a high prevalence of mobile phone dependency among adolescents leading to false perception of the mobile phone ringing and disturbed sleep.

Graphical representation of the number of Smartphone addiction cases increased in the past years.

Dr. Manoj K Sharma, professor of clinical psychology at NIMHANS and head of Service for Healthy Use of Technology, said, “We see eight to 10 cases per week related to addiction towards smartphones and gadgets in children and teenagers. Among teenagers, the issue of ‘social anxiety’ is very common.”

Obesity, impulsiveness, lethargy, impaired vision are a few things phone addiction does to you, said Dr. Sharma.

There are various ways one can get addicted to their phones. From Netflix to gaming to social media the younger generation has become hooked to gadgets and technology according to news reports.

The American Academy Of Pediatrics recommends children between 2 to 5 years, to limit screen use to 1 hour per day.

“Excessive use of anything to a point where your sleep, appetite, studies get affected is a cause of concern,” said Dr. Vivek.U, a psychologist. “I have kept gadgets aside and have allowed TV time only on weekends.”

Talking about the side-effects of smartphones on children, Dr Vivek said that excess use can get the kid impulsive, irritated and lethargic. The children cannot adjust to the normal world as the virtual world gives a high release of dopamine the feelgood hormones.

He suggested that parents should channel the child’s energy into more productive and healthy options. Children should also be allowed to play with more toys and other challenging brain games, that can preoccupy them with decreasing harm. They should also be taught how to use boredom to spark creativity. Giving children the device just to keep them busy is an unhealthy practice, parents could reconsider.