Effects of smartphone overuse in school students - A parents' guide
Posted by Strategic Communications, JGI Group on 20 Aug 2018
Smartphones - they are everywhere. Every smartphone user knows the magical wonder of owning one - having been virtually connected to the world with online accounts, handling multiple tasks with the help of various apps and features, and keeping oneself entertained with just a slim, hand-sized device. Nearly 90% of adults own a mobile phone. But, as many have started speculating, smartphone addiction has crept into the society, globally, often leaving the users impaired; physically, emotionally, and mentally.
This is not new to many, but this issue has been ruining people from down up. Either because of ignorance or the complacency of parents themselves, many children as young as a few months are increasingly becoming rampant. We often allow our children to "spend time" on our phones for long hours, regularly as soon as they return home from school, not knowing the effects they are being exposed to. Here is a parents' guide to the effects of smartphone overuse in school children and how we can beat it.
What happens to children with overuse of smartphones?
As the saying "Too much is too bad" goes, the same is applied to the use of smartphones among children too. Although many parents are easy on this matter, here are some of the consequences of overuse of mobile phones or any electronic gadget:
Brain changes - Mobile radiation has a great impact on the brain, for any individual. The brain develops furiously throughout life, but is most vulnerable until age 25, until when it is highly sensitive to radiation. Ideally, even young adults should be very careful, all the more with children. When the brain is hit by the radiation, it results in changes in areas of emotions, learning ability, and behavior.
Interpersonal Communication - This is the biggest risk you are taking with your child's overuse of the phone. Because of the changes caused in by radiation and the attention lost to phones, children drop out of normal and active social interaction. If this habit persists through teenage and young adulthood, a host of adjustment and behavioral issues may arise. Children may even slip into loneliness, depression, addictions, and poor mental abilities.
Emotional responses - Due to the above reasons, the emotional stability is affected. Children may soon resort to agitation, tantrums, and impatience. They lose the interpersonal connection and empathetic qualities that will further isolate them from the others. An imbalance in emotional expression is caused.
Chronic physical health issues - Due to prolonged physical inactivity and overuse of phones will result in joint pains, muscle spasms, eye-related difficulties and body posture issues.
Sleep patterns - Changes in sleep patterns occur drastically. Due to the use of mobile phones before turning in, or in bed causes sleep timings to be disrupted. The light emitted may confuse the brain to think it is still day and alters sleep cycles. Furthermore, many children are found to be playing games when they go to bed until they fall asleep. This leaves little time to relax and calm oneself that is often recommended before falling asleep at the end of the day.
A craving for many things - Access to the internet through the smartphone will make them crave for toys, video games, online shows, videos (even cartoon), social media, news, etc. that sometimes get them hooked and obsessed. This kind of obsession is ignorantly used by parents as a bribe for positive behavior or to finish a meal, not realizing that the child is being excessively made to depend on such things.
Adult sites and inappropriate habits - Children are not usually constantly or even slightly monitored, while they are on phones, even when the parent is in the same room. They usually stumble upon adult sites, violent games, and other age-inappropriate resources that are free of charge. This especially happens through YouTube, as even toddlers are used to playing their favorite cartoon videos. Older children may soon engage in other habits like improper texting, sending or receiving images, connecting with unknown contacts, and even become a victim or perpetrator of cyberbullying.
How can we protect our children against smartphone addiction?
However dangerous it all seems, there is still hope of changing your child's unhealthy technology uses. Banning them from using the smartphone altogether is not really a practical solution, like how some parents do with TV. This is because the child will eventually use a phone or any other electronic gadget when he/she grows up. You can set some guidelines instead so that your child will learn to handle technology accordingly.
Educate on safe and age-appropriate use - Speak to your child about the evils of the overuse of smartphones. Children from age 5 may be reasoned with on the uses, according to their level of understanding. Remember, when children are given reasons for a specific action or rule, they are more likely to abide by it. Also, casually mention that their activities are tracked so they are aware that someone is watching.
Time spent on technology - Do not allow our child to use a phone all by themselves too soon, at least till age 16. Even if you do, keep a check on the duration of time spent with it. There has to be a healthy use of any electronic gadget so that balance is maintained in all respects. Divide the day's time sufficiently so that the child should understand that using any gadget is just a part of the normal day, without having to spend a lot of time on it.
Enough time with people around - This has to be a priority for all ages. Children must be encouraged to interact with people of all ages and backgrounds so that they are socially functional and do not isolate themselves. This includes when there are guests at home, the time when they are highly tempted to use phones. A good exposure to people around will help them relate better with them and also have a healthier intrapersonal growth.
Engage them in other, creative and constructive activities - This obviously defaults for every child. Get them involved and engaged in plays, music, drama, sports, and other activities that do not involve many electronic gadgets.
Strict tech guidelines - Gently, but firmly place specific instructions. For example, train your child to not use the phone before bed, in the bedroom, at the table during meals, and during studies. This is a definite rule to follow while speaking to someone, as it inculcates values of empathy and respect for others and their time.
Lead by example - Children follow and mimic best when they observe their natural role models - their parents. Follow similar rules because children are always watching, and they often do what they see more than what they are told.
Schools often prohibit the use of mobile phones in and around the campus and most schools recommend the use of phones by children for any age. This is a firm rule that even Jain Heritage School (JHS) follows, and encourages all parents to follow these guidelines for ensuring a healthier lifestyle and childhood to their children.