In the 21st Century, the online era, keeping children away from a smartphone is a huge challenge for parents. However, due to corona and digital education, smartphones/tablets are becoming essential learning tools for children.
According to parents, no matter how many pros are there to having mobile phones, there are cons more than pros. Today, almost every second parent wants to keep their child away from mobile phones because of the addiction of children to smartphones. Still, even after trying several methods, they are finding it challenging.
This problem is equally difficult for many parents, whether single parents, working parents, or homemaker parents. They are often seen complaining about their children to counsellors, doctors, and relatives, and if your child is above 13/14 yrs of age, parents complain to their children also. Parents often ask- How to stop a child's phone addiction? My child is addicted to phone. What should I do? But is it enough? Just complaining about the situation makes it easier for you to handle. Or do you feel relaxed that everyone's child is doing this?
So, how to keep your child away from gadgets?
Well, we discussed this question with different age group parents, and we came to know a lot of things-
Gurmeet(64) from Delhi says.' My son and daughter-in-law are both working parents. My grandson is two and a half years old. Even at this age, he is addicted to seeing rhymes and cartoons on the phone. It does not suffice to listen. He needs to see the screen; only then will he stop crying. So how did it start? We are responsible for this. Whenever he used to cry, we gave him the phone. It was easier for his parents as well. It was corona time, so I couldn't take him out. Now it is difficult for us to keep phones away from him. But we try to avoid using phones in front of him. We make false stories of the phone being broken, lost or sometimes switching it off to show him. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.'
Amar(38) from Pune says, 'My son used to be always on his phone. He is 14. Whatever time he got apart from his studies, he wasted time on mobile phone. It all started when he was 6/7 years old. Gaming, Instagram Reels, I mean every networking site and whatnot. Then we thought that if this continued, it would hamper his mental growth and eyesight. So we started discussing these issues with him. Gave him examples, and yes, of course, bribed him, lured him to toys and other outdoor games. And it worked. But it did not happen overnight. It took 4-5months to reduce his screen time. Now except for his studies, he only uses mobile for 1-1.5hrs and that too with his own choice.'
Preeti(31), from a small town in Haryana, says, 'It is all my fault that my six-year-old daughter is so much into the mobile phone. Earlier, I used to give her a phone while I did household chores or freelancing. And I never realised that I should not be using this much screen in front of her. She started using phone when she was 1.5-2yrs old. And now we are halfway to getting rid of this habit of hers; Primarily, we avoid using phones/ any gadgets, even TV in front of her. She loves animated rhymes, so we have innovated a method to entertain and make her forget the screen. We play characters, and her father and I are trying our best. We hope that we can get through this. Because children at this age don't understand the logic of why they should not use mobile. So we have to opt for other methods.'
Why do kids love to watch smartphones?
The vivid visuals attract kids toward mobile phones. The moving imagery gives them profound happiness. The technology is engaging and interactive with toddlers. For kids, watching such new, colourful things at an early stage of their life is fun. They supply instant amusement and rewards for various successes, allowing the child to escape what is around them with control over what they see. The format is bright, cheerful, noisy, and has such overwhelming images of things they are interested in that nothing else can compare. They create a separate world from their families, with rewards for the number of friends and instant access to what is happening and will happen. The young brain responds to all this and will fight to keep it.
Children cannot monitor their use of these gadgets, and some adults are also addicted. Some experts agree that how a baby interacts with a cell phone can impact their mental development not only because of the stimulation the screen provides. But I'd say that mobile phones have impacted kids' learning process. And who else except you have exposed them to this technology?
Why are teenagers addicted to phones?
Teenagers usually use mobile phones to pass the time. In a few cases, teenagers also like their phones as they satisfy their curiosity as get a platform to learn and discover new things. There are countless exciting gaming and social media apps that the parent's generation can't even imagine, which provides them with infinite possibilities to keep them occupied.
Adverse effects of using mobile phone
According to studies, teens spend about 9-10 hours a day in front of screens while children of 8-12 years spend 6-7 hours. Here are a few side effects of excessive use of smartphones in children:
1. Lesser Physical Activity
WHO(World Health Organisation) in 2019 recommended that children between 2 and 5 should be limited to one hour of screen time per day, which is better. This is not because screens are themselves dangerous to children. But a child's preoccupation with the screen robs her of time to be physically active and get much-needed sleep.
2. Sight Problems
Increased use of cell phones is proven to cause vision problems in teenagers. This is known as vision syndrome. The symptoms include redness, burning sensation, stress, blurred vision, and dry eyes.
3. Addiction To Smartphones
What are the signs of cellphone addiction in teens?
The signs and intensity of cell phone addiction might vary from child to child. The common signs may frequently be checking the phone, a constant presence on social media even if they are not chatting or calling with anyone, quick responses to incoming messages, and disrupted sleep due to late-night phone usage.
Is your child addicted to online games?
Is your child spending more time on one game or asking for an app purchase for any game? Do you see any behaviour change due to online gaming? Do they seem to change screens on their device whenever you go nearby? Do they become angry suddenly after playing online games? If yes, then you need to be cautious. Please keep track of their sleep cycle and ensure they are not using a mobile phone before sleep.
The Education Ministry earlier said that online gaming has many downsides, such as it leads to a serious gaming addiction which has been considered a gaming disorder.
The prolonged closure of schools due to the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the use of mobile and internet by children and, ultimately, online gaming addiction.
Is your child Addicted To social media?
On average social media addicts check their phones more than 150 times a day, and it's been proven that our excessive access to social media and our obsession with online appearance has had a significant impact on children, including severe anxiety, cyberbullying, low self-esteem issues and feelings of anxiety, comparison and depression.
Social media not only promotes the decline in mental health for many teens, but it has become an easy outlet for online aggression and cyberbullying. And it has been seen that this factor is declining their academic growth.
Naturally, you cannot be productive if you have any distractions; the same can happen with your child; having a phone will tempt them to spend most of the time talking, texting or playing games. Studies have proven that teenagers who spend too much time with their cell phones are more vulnerable to anxiety, stress, anger, depression, and other problems.
5. Sleep disturbances
Most teens keep their cell phones nearby while sleeping to respond to texts and calls and remain reachable around the clock. This may lead to sleep interruption and disruption. Studies have found that teenagers who use cell phones after the lights out experience increased tiredness, fatigue and disturbed mood.
With high technological advancements and fast streaming internet, with each passing day, children can get anything they want anytime and anywhere with a few clicks. This means they are trained to be impatient, and parents play a big role in this. Sometimes it can lead to change in their societal behaviour.
Tips for Parents To Keep Their Child Away From Phones
You introduced them to a smartphone; now, you have to reduce their screen time. Parents are advised to follow these tips to de-addict their children from smartphones.
Alisa(28) from Bangalore says,' Do Not Introduce Smartphone Earlier. It will be very difficult for you and your child later. My husband and I play with our two-year-old, engage her in creative arts; we go for a walk, play, overall we avoid mobile phones strictly.'
1. Set an example
Your child is learning from you. Please do not use your mobile phone in front of them. Most parents spend a lot of time on their smartphones. In such cases, just ordering or telling children not to use the mobile will not help, as they are bound to follow you. So, be a good role model for your child by limiting your mobile phone usage. It is the most effective way.
2. Quality Time With Kid
Parents should give the child enough time, especially fun time, instead of smartphones. Instead of playing with a mobile phone, distract them by playing with them, take them out for a nature walk, tell stories to them, and make them curious. This is a crucial time to create a strong parent-child bond. Think about when there were no mobiles, and you still grew up. How did your parents manage to grow you without 'mobile phones'?
3. Manage their screen time
The internet should be used as a tool, with online media as a source of entertainment or information. But when online media becomes what your teen preoccupies with almost every hour of the day, they cannot think about or focus on anything else. How is a person expected to do anything in the real world when their hands and thoughts are on screens and online? As intertwined as our lives with the internet, many teens struggle to balance that with the responsibilities and challenges of living. Managing a teen's screen time and encouraging them to do so on their own for their health and future is critical.
4. Show them Offline World
Some therapists/Counselors addressed the reasons, triggers, and beliefs connected to the overuse of social media. As youngsters begin to make the connection between their overuse of social media and things like strained relationships, trouble at school, family fights and a constant feeling of being distracted and anxious, leading them to become addicted to social media where they can escape and do whatever they want to do if left unregulated.
Negotiate with your teen on the acceptable amount of time and money spent on cell phones. And decrease the screen time slowly and gradually.
6. Audio Over Video
Parents highly recommend that instead of showing the rhymes videos, you can play the audio to them. Till a certain age, do not expose them to video features. This way, they will not get distracted by the visual effects and bright colours and will enjoy the rhymes playing in the background. The other way is for parents to sing poems and rhymes to the kid.
7. No Force Or Sudden Snatching Of Phone
Kids get very frustrated when they suddenly have to stop a game in the middle of a level.
You should give them a ten-minute warning before they have to stop. So that they get enough time to end the game, and after ten minutes, they will be mentally prepared not to use the phone anymore.
8. Set passwords
It is always possible for you to be always around your child to keep track of them using the smartphone. In such a situation, technology can come to your rescue. Set a password on your phone so your child cannot use it while you are away.
9. Activity-based learning
Teens use phones for time-pass, and kids use phones for fun purposes. Teens love challenges. Mobile games are attractive as they put challenges at every new level. By engaging children in activity-based learning, you can help them gain knowledge while having fun, and the use of the phone can be minimised.
10. Smartphone Usage Schedule
It doesn't sound helpful, Right? But for once, try this method. It is a long process but fruitful in the long run. Start reducing ten minutes of phone usage every week. And in just 4-5 months, see the difference.
As smartphones have become an inseparable part of our lives, digital education and a mode of fun, it isn't easy to keep them away from children. Therefore, make your child understand that they can use your smartphone only for a limited time.
You know your child better than any therapist, counsellor or other advisor, so act accordingly. It is a process, do not try to stop mobile addiction in just one day.