CHENNAI: Devices and advices are keeping children confused during the lockdown, say child psychiatrists. After online classes substituted classrooms, most children are glued on to the otherwise restricted devices.
However, this comes with serious biological as well as psychological effects. Experts, while welcoming digital learning warn that it may impede development of social skills, increase irritability and reduce ability to concentrate, in the long term.
Parents too are a worried lot. Sumanth (name changed) fears that his 12-year-old daughter is getting addicted to a tablet. Before lockdown, she was allowed an hour of TV and an hour of device time a day. "The lockdown has tossed all such timetables out of the window. We used to restrain her from using devices, but now are insisting she use them for classes." Psychiatrist Dr V Mithun Prasad feels contradictory advices from parents could confuse children.
"Till recently, we have been telling children to stay away from gadgets and now we are telling them that such devices are essential. They will stop taking parental advices seriously," he says adding that child’s biology itself is being confused with increased use of devices.
"The body perceives blue light from such devices as daylight and alters the circadian rhythm. When there is a chance to learn from recorded videos, it should be played to them in the morning," he says.
Dr Vivian Kapil, a psychiatrist at SIMS hospital, tells parents to stay in touch with the teachers. "Parents should be aware of the schedule and stay in touch with teachers to ensure that children do not lie about timings," he says adding a note of caution that addiction to gadgets strongly resembles substance addiction. Both lead to dopamine secretion and withdrawal can cause irritability.
The long-term impact of such addiction is different among younger children and those in later teen years, says S Thenmozhi, Head of the Department of Counselling Psychology, University of Madras. "Unchecked addiction in preteens can lead to difficulty in understanding the idea of self regulation," she says adding that it may also lead to poor grasp of empathy.
Older teens, if their education and social interactions were purely digital, would struggle to make sense of their sexuality and would lack the chance to test and experiment their age-related social instincts, says Thenmozhi. She points out that while online education and interaction have become essential, it can at best be a stop gap solution.