Mobile phones started as a replacement for pigeons carrying messages from one person to another. From allowing phone calls and sharing messages, mobile phones today incorporate cameras, calculators, alarms, notebook facilities, email synchronization, access to the internet, entertainment platforms, games, and various apps which fulfill more or less every requirement we have – from ordering food, medicines, grocery and to shopping clothes and other necessities.
On the other hand, apart from all these benefits, mobile phones come with their own drawbacks such as addiction, over-usage, FOMO, an inactive lifestyle, etc. This also brings us to the bad effect of mobile phones on children. Kids being addicted to cell phones is one of the greatest concerns in today’s times. Kids of the past grew up with physical toys, playing with bricks and mud; but today’s kids grow up with mobile phones. They begin to consume YouTube movies, songs, videos, games, etc. from a very early age which brings us to a debatable topic of weighing the benefits Vs. risks of cellphone effects on the child.
Benefits of mobile phones on children
Easy communication – working parents can stay in touch and monitor their children through phones until they are back home.
Safety – your child having a phone during emergencies is always better – allows him/her to reach out for necessary help!
Peer contacting – calling/texting school peers for doubts or other fruitful communications.
Digitally equipped – having access to cellphones makes children digitally equipped – which is definitely important and crucial in today’s digital world.
Boosts creativity – playing games, and watching videos or cartoons naturally boosts the creativity of the brain.
Primary education – the brains of toddlers and kids are very sharp and have very high grasping capabilities. On watching cartoons, videos, and informational clips, little ones begin to recognize and learn shapes, colors, alphabets, numbers, voice and tone understanding, etc.
Information access – education these days demands web search – a smartphone makes online data and information easily and readily available for student use.
Entertainment – entertainment is crucial for adults as well as for kids – but as long as it is consumed in the right amounts and does not become an addiction it leads to bigger problems.
Harmful effects of mobile phones on children
Obesity due to sedentary screen time
Spending too much time on mobile phone(s) results in a sedentary lifestyle – a lifestyle with poor activity – which increases the risk of obesity and other internal health complications.
Risks of Health Hazards
As per The Journal of The American Medical Association, the usage of mobiles can have intense effects on the brain and other parts of the body. The few most strongly associated hazards of extended/unreasonable use of mobile phones on children are cancer, effects on the brain, non-malignant tumors, etc.
Effect of mobile radiation on child
A child’s brain is extremely sensitive to handle the effects of smartphone radiation. So as parents, always make sure to keep your child’s phone fully away from the child when he/she sleeps.
Lakh of sufficient sleep
Addiction to phones can keep kids awake late during the night. And lack of sleep can lead to various complications in the short as well as long run.
Deteriorating sleep quality
Research suggests that the blue light emitted by screens of cell phones hampers the production of melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that controls and stabilizes the sleep-wake cycle (also known as circadian rhythm). When this hormone is imbalanced, the sleep and wake cycle is disturbed thus leading to poor sleep quality.
Decrease in focus and attention spans
While an adult can manage with 6-7 hours of sleep every night, a child must ideally sleep for at least 8 hours every night. When the sleep requirement is not fulfilled (due to lack of rest in the brain), the effectiveness and concentration levels of the child begin to drop. So make sure that your child sleeps well.
Poor academic results
Because YouTube is the clear winner against Mathematics! Interest and time invested into entertainment are often likely to lead to poor academic results – sooner or later.
Hobbies take a backseat
With inactivity in the mind, hobbies and other productive interests begin to fall down. Encourage our child to paint, sketch/draw, indulge in musical/dance activities, and take part in sports, and other such – which will help in keeping the creative juices flowing.
Distance from family
With increasing interest in phones, kids begin to feel distanced from parents and this is not a good effect at all.
Differences with parents
When the mind gets too involved with something, there is a natural and automatic tendency to ignore the other stimulus in the environment.
Access to unfitting internet data
Children are sensitive and not prepared for all kinds of information available on the internet. Unmonitored usage can lead to accidental or deliberate access to shocking, unfiltered, or harmful content on the net which can adversely affect the child’s mindset. He/she might end up feeling scared, shocked, confused, etc.
Inappropriate behaviors such as sending sensitive pictures, videos, and messages are a very big issue with teens. Once they go into the wrong hands, they can spread like wildfire. Also, children, even as young as seven, can easily access any pornographic website from smartphones.
Also, it can teach your kids to engage in exam malpractices and cheating during exams. Once caught, it could put a halt on your child’s school career and they might have a hard time transferring to another school if they get expelled.
Tips to mitigate mobile effects on kids
Now that we know the effects of mobile phones on children’s health, let us look at some simple tips and tricks that will help us eliminate the negative impact of mobile on children:
a) Decide the amount of time your child must have access to the phone.
b) Once the time is fixed, make sure the timings are strictly followed.
c) Explicitly convey proper etiquette of phone usage to your child. Teach them with love and gradually imbibe a mature understanding of the scenario in them.
d) Avoid showing entertaining content or allowing your child to play games while having meals since this might create a subconscious association of phones with food – which is risky since it is prone to addiction. As parents, you do not want to create a situation where your child does not eat food without video/games.
e) Do not let the phones stay with the kids when they go to sleep.
f) Like mentioned earlier, to avoid radiation affecting the brain, keep phones away from children especially while they sleep.
g) Explain to them the above-mentioned risks – whichever and whenever possible. This information helps them feel responsible themselves to limit and use mobile phones in the right way.
h) Mainly, if your child cannot spot his/her belongings, then is likely that he/she is not old enough to handle a phone yet and as a parent, you must refrain from giving him/her a personal phone in the first place.