In 1990s, the only sophisticated piece of technology that children could access at home was the black and white television set. One would often find the little one changing channels by turning the manual knobs. By 2018, the list of fancy gadgets at home expanded. Today, a child watching videos on YouTube is a common sight, thanks to smart phones. But, the smartphone addiction among children is no longer a phenomenon occurring only in metro cities. Clinical psychologists in city claim that children as young as two-year-old have also turned addicts of endless scrolling and browsing. The City Express talks to clinical psychologists from Manam Wellness Centre and Apollo Hospitals to bring you an insight into this new age crisis.
As Soumya Mohapatra of Manam puts it, the problem exists in families from various socio-economic backgrounds in the city. “It is difficult to specify a particular class or group, where the problem is prevalent. It is more widespread and has been reported from families from different social backgrounds,” she added. “However, this problem is being spotted in families where the child gets to spend lesser quality time with other members. Sometimes, destructive environment within the family could also be a reason for the virtual escapade of the child,” she explained. Soumya also shared some of the striking cases pertaining to smartphone addiction among children that she came across as a counsellor in the city. In one such instance, a child turned violent and went on to hit his sister when he lost his phone. “A class-VII got a cell-phone from his father as a reward for scoring well in exam. The keenness to Google and chat gradually became more than a requirement for him. When the phone was taken away by the parents, the child started stealing the phone and he eventually turned into a case of nomophobia. The fear of not having the mobile resulted in anxiety attacks, poor performance in studies and avoiding parents and friends,” Soumya revealed. Clinical psychologist Sushmita of Apollo Hospital said she found 90 per cent of the smart phone addiction cases were linked with depression among children. “In clinal setting, we found that in all such cases, there was some sort of discord within the family. The child was not well-connected to the parents,” she added.
Signs of addiction
Experts in the city said early intervention was important in such cases. But, how would you know if the child was nearing cell-phone addiction? “If your child keeps asking for the cell-phone every thirty minutes on some or the other pretext of project-work, internet, weather, news etc, you must check him. Addiction can be suspected when the child shows irritability and anger when not given the phone or in absence of the phone and avoids friends playing outside or socializing. There is also increased signs of sleeplessness, irritability, anger, unusual silence found in such children,” adds Soumya
• Gadgets should be used for a limited time period with the parental supervision
• Work together with children and involve yourself in their project work
• Encourage the children to chat with their friends in your presence without invading their privacy
• Do not install unnecessary games and apps on the phone
• Have open discussion on the merits and demerits of being connected with a gadget for a long time.