Picture this: Mother of a one-and-half-year-old has to hide her phone because if her son’s sees the phone, he throws a tantrum to have it and it is so difficult to handle him. She has no choice but to keep her phone hidden. This is a common issue faced by parents today, in most households, and is increasingly becoming a problem wherein kids are addicted to screen devices like cellphones and tablets.
A CAUSE OF CONCERN
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids between the ages of two to five, have no more than an hour of screen time a day on mobile devices like cell phones and tablets. They also recommend that kids 18 months and below don’t have any at all. The reason being, Screen Dependency Disorder (SDD), is a disorder that refers to “addictive” behaviour brought on by too much screen time.
Psychologist Dr Aric Sigman and author of a research paper on SDD says that kids who are addicted to screens can exhibit classic addictive behaviours like mood swings, withdrawal symptoms, and loss of other interests. Also, kids with SDD routinely lie about how much time they spend on the device.
Consultant Avelino-Tandoc says that children with SDD may suffer from insomnia, weight gain or loss, eyesight problems, and even back and headaches. She identifies kids with SDD as those who reach for their devices as soon as they wake up. Kids who eat with their eyes firmly on their screen may also have SDD.
SDD is very commonly seen these days as the exposure to screens has gone up 10-fold in the recent past, says psychiatrist and psychotherapist, Dr Anjali Chhabria adding, “Every other week I see at least two kids being brought in by their parents with the complaints of not being attentive in class/school and spending a lot of time on-screen.”
“Two out of four children show behaviour patterns of SDD. Not kids all are diagnosed with the same but behaviours displaying this disorder are very common. On an average, I see at least five to 10 children where screen time is a concerning phenomenon. Parents are struggling to cope with the dilemma it presents with children who are as young as a year and a half to as old as 18 years old,” says Mansi Hasan, clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, tobacco treatment specialist.
PARENTS PLAY A BIG ROLE
Well, parents do play a big role, opines Hasan and reasons out. Gadgets are an easy way out to grab the attention of a child and hold it, and also the easiest way for parents to impart knowledge to the child. As adults, we ourselves are so dependent on our screens for work, communication, socialising or being informed. The child starts this habit by imitation or being distracted but soon ends glued to his/her own created world on the screens. However, there are other factors which contribute to this addiction too such as peer pressure, school set-up and the current environment where screens are a source to everything.
On the other hand, the blame game here wouldn’t yield a positive result, feels Dr Chhabria. Parents could be blamed for being the provider of such materialistic lifestyle, the manufacturers who come up with advanced and smart end gadgets which cater to every age group or the advertisements that make the products look so lucrative and a must have. The lack of knowledge about the gadgets and its use could be a major factor to blame…
(Left-Right) Is your child throwing tantrums? and Limit your child’s screen time
Mansi Hasan provides the following tips:
- For toddlers, screen time is an absolute no-no.
- Parents themselves should limit their screen time Encourage activities which stimulate the child’s mind and develop different skills.
- Playing outdoors is a must. Encourage at least one hobby or physical activity for the child.
- Don’t get gadgets for children for their individual use. Spend time with our children face-to-face, not screen-to-screen. Encourage reading but not on a digital device. Give them books instead.
- Create a peer group which can facilitate as a support system. Spend family time by talking and playing board games.
- Set rules for screen time and stick to it. Gadgets used sparingly are not harmful but useful, but their use has to be limited.