Exposure to digital devices starts much before a child is born in today’s digital world. People are so involved in mobile phones and other digital devices that it is nearly impossible for them to unplug themselves. Digital gadgets are playing regulatory roles in the life of humans. From waking up with a mobile alarm to snoozing it in the morning, all 24 hours it is with us.
Mobiles are quite helpful for parents to make their baby eat food as children are indulged in watching videos without mindful eating. Also, sometimes parents get bits of leisure time while children are busy violently smashing the barriers required to pass a level in the game.
In the last two years, the global covid pandemic has hit us profoundly, and children are confined to their homes and gadgets, which imposes a severe concern upon parents.
Children spend a handsome amount on mobiles and laptops, such as virtually attending classes, socialising with their peers, entertainment and fun purposes etc. It was pretty challenging for parents to set boundaries in the initial phase of the pandemic, but, in contrast, now we have adapted to it and can manage and maintain reasonable limits in technology usage.
Due to over usage of smartphones, parents are in a dilemma and often find a criterion for intelligent phones like legal age for driving. In an interview, Jerry Bubrick, a clinical psychologist and anxiety expert at the Child Mind Institute, suggested that although appropriate age for using mobile is a very common question asked by the parents, this is more linked to the social awareness and understanding of what the technology means to the child or what knowledge of ourselves is transferred to the children.
A 2016 report of Influence Central stated children get their first intelligent phones around age 10.3. The above data is the updated version of the 2012 report and a subsection from a more extensive, ongoing study of 500 women across the US.
Pros and cons
Mobile phones have become a widespread phenomenon in the present time. These small pocket-sized tools are no less than a mini-computer. They can do anything from a standard phone call to surfing the internet. Not just the adults, this technology is affecting the kids as well.
In 2011, an international study showed no link between cell phone use and brain tumours in adolescents and teens. But due to the increase in the use of mobile phones over time, researchers also found that over usage of mobile phones leads to cancer.
Kesari concluded that mobile phone radiation might increase the reactive oxygen species, which plays an important role in developing metabolic and neurodegenerative diseases. Children have smaller heads and thinner skull bones than adults. Their brain tissue also has higher conductivity, and these circumstances give higher absorption from radio frequency radiation than in adults.
Hardell investigated the children and adolescents’ health implications of digital (wireless) technologies and found that neurological diseases, physiological addiction, cognition, sleep and behavioural problems are considered in addition to cancer. He further suggested that well-being needs to be carefully evaluated as an effect of changed behaviour in children and adolescents through their interactions with modern digital technologies.
Although there might be a few advantages of children having mobile phones, there are more adverse effects. One good advantage is that children can call up their parents in case of an emergency or stuck in someplace. Parents can have peace of mind.
Children are seen using mobile phones like toys, but parents should never overlook the side effects that it can cause. Even Bill Gates mentioned in one of his interviews that he did not allow his children to use the phone before they were 14 years old. Overuse mobile phones can lead to reduced interpersonal relationships and a lack of productivity in daily life.
Parul Kalia, PhD is an assistant professor at the University of Baroda in India.