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Is your child addicted to the mobile phone? Here are 5 tips to help you tackle the Issue

By Dr Subhash Rao, Consultant-Pediatrician, Hiranandani Hospital Vashi-A Fortis Network Hospital

Parents, especially those of teenagers, are always worried about how the increasing use of technology interferes with the wellbeing and health of their children. Between scrolling social media feeds and video calls with friends, children as young as seven and eight spend too much time on mobile devices. While there is no conclusive evidence regarding the effect of cell phones on a child’s brain, there have been many findings that point in a problematic direction. Preliminary data from an Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study has found that high screen time is bad for the brain & affects a child’s psychology, thinking patterns, sleep cycles, and behaviour. 

In India, the addiction to smartphone devices is increasing rapidly. A survey conducted by a cartoon channel in India revealed that 95% kids live in homes with a mobile phone, while 73% Indian kids are active mobile phone users. Interestingly, 70% fall under the age group of 7-10yrs, while 76% are in the age group of 11-14yrs. Many families now don’t use landline phones, and almost every adult member of the family has access to a digital phone – this results in a child having access to these devices from a very young age. The above factors then come together and result in addiction to technological gadgets which can also lead to various health conditions including Obesity. 

The above data points can be scary for any parent, and although any parent might want to take steps to rectify the same, it is easier said than done. Also, since most parents tend to use threats/ nagging behaviour to reduce the time spent on a digital device by children, it rarely promises to be a fruitful endeavour. Ahead, we have put together some pointers that can help parents tackle this issue better. 

DON’T DEMONIZE THE EFFECTS OF TECHNOLOGY:  There is no doubt that technology plays a vital role in our lives. More importantly, there is a high chance that the role of technology will only increase in the coming days/ years. This means that ranting about how mobile companies spend billions to get people hooked on their products will probably not work. Instead, it is essential to help children understand the benefits of a smartphone, including communication with family/ friends and research for schoolwork. It is also necessary to help them understand that overuse of digital devices can creep into time that could be spent productively doing other things like reading, playing, pet care, and spending time with the family. 

BE A GOOD ROLE MODEL: Children, more than anyone, like to emulate their adults. That is why it is highly critical that parents must also try to reduce their dependence on these devices when trying to instil good digital habits in children. An excellent way to implement this habit is to have a ‘no device time’, where children and parents spend time bonding with each other through games and creative outlets like reading, painting, or gardening. These habits will help children understand the value of spending time productively while also creating valuable connections with their parents/ extended family. 

DO NOT USE DIGITAL DEVICES AS A SOURCE OF REWARD OR AS A DISTRACTION METHOD: It is difficult to avoid using technology and digital devices altogether, considering that they have great educational value, especially for young children. In such a scenario, moderation is essential. These devices should never be leveraged to encourage children to study/ do homework/ or do household chores. It sets a bad precedent that these devices will only be available at specific times. Instead, focus on teaching your children digital habits that will encourage them to use these devices to learn new things to help them grow and develop. 

MAKE A TECH-FREE ZONE AT HOME:  Some areas of the house like the dining table, bedroom and kitchen should be marked as ‘gadget-free’ zones. When any family member is present in these zones, they should not use any digital devices. In addition, certain times like mealtimes should also be considered digital-free time so that the time spent eating meals can be a productive affair where families enjoy the food and the company. 

PRAISE YOUR CHILD WHEN HE SPENDS TIME DOING PRODUCTIVE THINGS: It is essential to praise a child when they make extra efforts to prioritize other creative interests over screen time, especially when they do it independently. Praising positive behaviour will encourage them to learn new habits that will eventually help them become well-groomed individuals. 

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