Unsafe digital boxes in the hands of children

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By: Syed Tajamul Hussain

Reeling under bizarre Covid-19 atmosphere, human beings have lost all taste and colours of outdoor life. Either they are locked and confined indoors or roaming outdoor with suffocating masks and preventive dress kits making them to look like aliens. In this atmosphere, people find electronic gadgets as the only alternative left to get them relieved from stress. Due to prolonged lockdown and closure of educational institutions, children have become very much prone to use electronic boxes at will. Are these electronic boxes safe for our blooming buds? Does excessive usage or addiction to electronic objects affect children and if yes, how much? These curious questions make the parents to worry about and seek for the safety tips to combat such dangerous addiction among their kids.

No doubt, smartphone as one of the most frequently used electronic gadget, proves an abode of knowledge and enthralled entertainment but its excessive usage by kids rings alarm bells. These wireless devices are now becoming a part of their daily life but they are to be used in a manner that is safe enough. Good health is above wealth but majority of us undermine our personal health and become careless about our children’s mental and physical health caused by the excessive usage of cell phones. It is not technology itself that is bad for kids but the way it is being used that disconnects them from basic needs such as sound sleep, nutrition, fresh air and physical activity as well as higher needs such as sense of belonging and meaning of life. There are many potential health risks to mental and physical well being related to overuse of cell phones especially low IQ, improper mental growth in children, sleep deprivation, brain tumours and various psychiatric diseases.

It is becoming increasingly common to see even toddlers wielding smart phones. Smartphones are found to be psychologically addictive. Today children are growing up in a radio frequency environment that never existed in human history before. Microwave radiations transmitted by a cell phone are very harmful to a brain specially kid’s brain. Kids would not be able to sleep properly because of its vibration and beeps. According to the recent research, the brain tissues of children absorb about two times more microwave radiations than that of adults. What could possibly affect the brain is the content, the child is exposed to and the screen time.

Exposure to prolonged screen time hampers all round development in a child. Too much screen time can result in digital eyestrain. A 2014 survey of 200 American children between ages of 10 and 17 found that about 80% reported burning, itchy or tired eyes after using portable electronic devices. When our kids are slouching over a cell phone, they ruin their neck and back muscles. Mobile devices cause the brain of a child to become wired from an early age to carve easy dopamine referring to the “feel good “chemical released by the brain. The constant overstimulation from screens gives the brain hits of dopamine that is why they are so addictive.

Use of cell phone can lead children to engage in inappropriate behaviours. They can easily check sites that show harmful and shocking content. They are prone to be exposed to cyber bullies on social media who harass and bully them over the internet. Social media may also induce depression and anxiety among kids when they are not given the online attention as they expect.  They can find their way to dangerous pornography at an early age, changing their perceptions and thought process.

A recent survey found that about 90% of parents who provide smart phones to their kids so that they remain in touch whenever they want to, children stop communicating with the family all together.

From time to time, many children have a false feeling that their cell phone is vibrating in their pockets when it is not. This situation is called “phantom pocket vibration syndrome “. A case study conducted by Dr. Michelle Drouin revealed that 89% of teenagers had experienced this type of sensation. This especially relates to have a social media addiction. Reducing overall usage of mobile phones and shutting off cell phone’s vibration is a good way to combat this syndrome. To let the kids to play YouTube videos is very harmful too as it redirects them to inappropriate content without parent’s knowledge.

Every parent need to monitor over the excessive use of electronic boxes so that their kids are kept safe and sound from health deterioration. For the children of age 10 to 12, parents should place some strict limits for screen time. The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) recommends limiting of screen time to less than one hour per day for children ages 2 to 5 years old (screen time for children younger than 2 years old is not recommended at all). Belgium, France, Germany and other technologically sophisticated governments are passing laws or issuing warnings about children’s use of wireless devices.

The Apple co-founder Steve Jobs limited his kids to use of technology and even prohibited them from using the iPod when it was released. Bill Gates as former CEO of Microsoft did not allow his kids to have their own phones until they turned 14. It is not as mandatory as we think to provide wireless phones to kids as parents may stay in touch with the teachers and school non-teaching staff to ensure the safety and health of their wards if needed. A mobile phone is just like a double-edged sword. It is becoming a learning tool for children however keeping things in moderation and restricting usage hours goes a long way in ensuring children’s well being.

– The writer can be [email protected]

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