Srinagar: From playing games to watching movies, or skimming through social media, no one from young toddlers to elderly individuals can imagine going a day without using an electronic device.
But this addiction to digital devices especially mobile phones among children is adversely affecting their health.
As per Kashmir-based doctors, smartphone dependency is equal to ‘drug addiction’, which is a grave concern for the society.
Doctors said that mobile phone exposure and excess screen time could hamper the overall development of children, especially those below five years.
Professor at Ophthalmology Department, Government Medical College, Srinagar, Dr Sajad Khanday told Greater Kashmir that mobile exposure to kids should be strictly restricted as 70 percent of the children have been found with variable degree of refractive error.
"Out of every 10 kids, six to seven kids had problems with vision. Over exposure to mobile phones can lead to myopia, astigmatism, conjunctivitis, dry eye disease. Some kids are vulnerable to squints, some squints get aggravated due to mobile exposure, especially convergent squints. Those kids who are not vulnerable to squints but they get them due to mobile exposure. These are the causes for impaired vision among the children,” Dr Khanday said.
Besides this, mobile phone exposure affects the psychosocial, cognitive function, IQ, social behaviour of the children.
Post COVID-19, many schools had asked the parents to get the eyes of their wards checked by doctors.
Dr Suhail Naik, a Kashmir-based paediatrician told Greater Kashmir that mobile addiction was like a drug addiction and it affects the brain development of the kids.
He said that mobile addiction disassociates children from the environmental factors like social inputs, language inputs and other outdoor exposure.
"If parents give excess screen time to their children, it has adverse effects on their holistic brain development. Children who have over exposure to mobile phones and are addicted to over screen time usually have problems with delayed language, brain development,” Dr Naik said.
He said that some children even have aggression, behavioural changes, eyestrain, pain in hands, and other complications.
“We cannot blame the children only. But it is the responsibility of parents and family members to control this menace. They should first stop using mobile phones, and limit their screen time," Dr Naik said.
According to the doctors, besides affecting their overall development, smartphone addiction can also disturb the mental health of the kids. Professor at IMHANS, Dr Yasir Hassan Rather told Greater Kashmir that in recent years, particularly post pandemic, the smartphone use had rapidly increased among children worldwide.
"Online learning led to an increase in screen time, resulting in a greater possibility of students getting distracted by social media and games," he said.
Dr Rather said that overuse leads to clinical, psychological and social adversities in children.
“Its overuse can lead to mood issues, loss of interest, isolation, distractions, learning issues, sleep disturbances and physical problems like eye problems and musculoskeletal issues. Mobile overuse can alter the adolescent’s development and construction of identity,” he said.
Dr Rather said that excessive mobile use among toddlers had become a kind of norm in the society.
“Mothers hand their mobiles to toddlers to watch YouTube cartoons while feeding them. This can cause language delay and learning problems as well as autistic traits among them,” he said.
According to a World Health Organisation recommendation, a digital gadget, mobile phone, laptop, or phone should never be within the reach of a child younger than one-year-old while children between ages two and five could use phones for one hour a day.
As per the studies, the majority of parents make little effort to stop their kids' rising smartphone dependency and frequently take pleasure in observing their kids' various smartphone skills.
Most parents do not see anything wrong with their children spending so much time on technology and social media and continue to disregard the negative impacts of this behaviour.
The Indian Academy of Paediatrics have recommended that children below 2 years should not be exposed to screen that is zero screen time.
“And screen time of less than 2 hours to children aged 5 to 10 years. Screen time must not replace other physical and outdoor activities, family time, sleep, and study. Families should monitor what content their children are watching,” they said.