Digital technologies are omnipresent. No doubt, digital technologies are bringing opportunities for learning and education to children, especially in remote regions and during humanitarian crises like COVID-19. Nowadays, technological devices are permanent companions to most of us. People continuously interact with more or less intelligent applications and devices like streaming platforms, wearables and above all smartphones but, at the same time, the ubiquity of screens and their prominence in everyday life has drawn criticism and concerns.
Smartphone has challenged our autonomy. Whether it is chatting with each other, watching entertainment or browsing any information, mobile phones have become the major online gateway for young people. As mobile phones became common the rapid rise of myopia has been a concern in the past decade. According to George et al (2019), more time spent using digital technologies was linked to increased symptoms of ADHD and conduct disorder, as well as worse self-regulation. Teenagers’ late-night mobile phone use is harming their sleep and potentially their mental health, smartphones are fueling a ‘bedroom culture.’ Smart devices and screen time lead to insomnia, poor sleep quality, and depressive symptoms among adolescents.
When people use their phone or laptop or watch TV, the screen emits light which gives the brain the impression that it is not bedtime yet. This affects the production of a hormone called melatonin, which contributes to insomnia, sleep deprivation or poor quality of sleep which means when eyes are exposed to artificial light late into the night, our internal clocks get confused, resulting in a host of health issues.
WHO recommends nil screen time for infants (0-1years) and less than one hour per day of screen time for children between the ages of 2 and 5 and for older children. Parents need to monitor the content and set consistent limits on mobile use.
Tips for parents
In this age where digital media is constantly becoming more personal and complex, parental anxiety around their children’s internet use can be intense. Parents are the first line of responsibility in protecting children and helping them learn and grow into productive adults – and their responsibilities are to help their children to realise the merits and demerits of a digital world.
- Parents could also set a good example by demonstrating good habits they can model healthy electronic use, as children always imitate their parents. Parents should use less screen time and spend qualitative time with their children.
- Parents can also introduce a technology-free zone in their schedule where they can unplug the wifi and have indoor activities like reading, solving puzzles and listening to music. Parents must help their children to enhance creativity.
- Educate your child and explain why you’re limiting screen time. If your children understand that you’re limiting their screen time because too much time spent on screens has a negative aspect, they’re much more likely to follow the rules you set.
- Parents must be realistic enough as going absolutely screen-free may not be a possibility in today’s age. Parents should use parental control applications to monitor their child online activities and set limits on each application usage.
Manisha Dhami is a PhD student at Punjab Agricultural University. She carries out research in human development.