Is addiction to technology “disabling” children?

This article was published in The Hindu In School paper on 16th December 2021, titled “Take Control of Tech!”

Harish’s exams are due next week but he is finding it hard to focus on his lessons. He feels restless and stressed.

Thousands of kilometers away, Seema and her family members are all at home. She finds it boring to engage in a conversation with them. She chooses a quiet corner and gets busy with her gadget.

Does this sound familiar? What do you find common in these two situations? 

Research has shown that 65% of children are addicted to gadgets and that over 50% of the children are not able to stay away from gadgets even for half an hour! The COVID-19 pandemic has observed a rise in the incidence of “No-Mobile-Phone” phobia. 

So why do you think this seems to be the common phenomenon across most young gadget users?

Research shows that the use of technology affects the thinking part of the brain. Gadgets can be so hyper-exciting that it increases dopamine levels making us crave more stimulation 

Interaction with electronic screens also shifts the nervous system into ‘fight-or-flight’ mode, leading to irritability, tantrums, altered sleep cycles,  frustration, learning difficulties, and a bad memory.

Major impact of these shifts: 

Social Isolation: Due to the excitement that gadgets cause in the brain, children prefer to engage with them more than real people. As a result, the adaptability and social attitude of the child get impaired. In the long run, this leads to children feeling lonely and not wanting to make friends or socialise with people in real life

Lack of Emotional Development: Interacting with people develops essential emotional skills like recognising emotions, understanding what others are feeling, and coping with real-life issues. But if we tend to be socially isolated, our emotional development gets impaired. We feel frustrated that, unlike technology, we are unable to control the real world or the people in it. This can lead to anxiety and depression. 

So is technology creating a disability of sorts in us by impairing the development of social and emotional skills? What would the world look like if a majority of mankind were to have this impairment?

Strong social and emotional skills help in positive wellbeing, maintaining healthy relationships, achieving personal, academic, and career goals, and overall satisfaction in life. 

 Here are some ways with which we can begin to explore this: 

  • Say “Love you, Zindagi!” Restrict gadget usage hours to free up a lot of time. Spend time with yourself to understand your strengths, to build more self awareness and to make thoughtful choices.
  • Join the “Whistle Podu” army. Engage in physical activity or hobbies like sports, running, gardening etc. This could be as exciting as an online experience!
  • Care to Scrabble? Build meaningful relationships, compassion and empathy by spending quality time with loved ones. Board games or heartwarming chats are a great place to start at!

So let’s go ahead and start taking control of technology while putting it to good use.

This World Disability Day (Dec 3), let’s take a pledge for technology to be a tool to overcome disabilities. Not create one!

Wordsmith: Ramya SundaramProgram Consultant, HELO Program

The Head, Heart & Love (HELO) Program is an initiative by Bhumi to make social and emotional learning (SEL) an integral part of education by fostering self and social awareness, self-management, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making in learning spaces*.– Visit bhumi.ngo/helo to know more.

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