Lucknowites: Increased on-screen time is leading to behavioural changes in kids

From irritation to anger issues, increased screen time brings troubles for young kids!

It is not a hidden fact anymore, that an increase in on-screen time is generating symptoms of mobile addiction among kids, which is leading to certain behavioural changes in them. This unprecedented rise in the optimum screen exposure is a direct consequence of the online classes that are held for longer hours in lieu of school shutdowns amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

Technology Troubles

A senior psychiatrist at the King George's Medical University (KGMU) in Lucknow said that he got repeated cases where children were getting irritable, losing appetite and also complaining of headaches and eye problems. "Since the pandemic is continuing, I am unable to hold counselling sessions with such children and I am only advising parents on dealing with the situation," he said.

Parents are recognising definite behavioural issues among children which range from anger management to misbehaviour. The virus scare has limited their social and organic interactions and signs of frustration are being identified in the way their newer way of expression. Suman Rawat, a young homemaker admitted that her two children, a son and a daughter had shown definite behavioural changes. "They were well-behaved children but now they have started answering back. If I scold them, they start throwing things around and even misbehave with their grandparents. They want to go out and play but I cannot send them because of the Corona scare," she said.

Not only in Lucknow but similar cases are also on an increase in Prayagraj and Psychiatrists at the Moti Lal Nehru Hospital in the city has observed an upward trend of anxious parents bringing in their children with problems of mobile addiction and behavioural anomalies. Ishanya Raj, a clinical psychologist at MLN Hospital said, "After meeting so many patients and doing counselling, we have observed some factors influencing the family dynamics during the lockdown. There is less interaction with children, poor parenting practices, lack of communication and supervision." Raj further added that in most cases, every family member was busy in the virtual world during the pandemic.

"Due to the current nuclear family structure, children do not have the opportunity to play and involve in other recreational activities. Schools are closed and children are relying on mobile phones to play games or watch other programmes. Some children have been found to be using mobile phones for more than 12 hours in a day or more due to the absence of interaction among family members. This is leading to behavioural issues and making the child irritable," the psychologist elaborated.

These problems are much more severe in families having a single child who has absolutely no interaction with others in his or her age group. "We are asking them to allow physical activity for the child from within the home and spend more time interacting with them. The child should be made to take regular breaks from the mobile phones," said Rakesh Dhawan, consultant psychiatrist in the same hospital.

However, many counsellors have also implored on the possibility of these being temporal changes that can be rectified by right psychological guidance. Rakesh Paswan further added, "Through detailed analysis of the parenting style, the deficit areas need to be identified, and with the use of psychological interventions these kinds of issues can be tackled." The doctors said that parents were being advised to increase interaction with children even if they are on a work-from-home mode.

Apart from these behavioural and psychological issues, children are also exposed to the danger of irritability and headache due to the harsh lights of their screens leading to a direct impact on their eyes and optic nerves. O.P. Rai, an ophthalmologist in Agra, said that cases of children suffering from redness and watering of eyes, blurred vision and even pain around the eyes have increased substantially in the past three months.

Knock Knock

Since the need to conduct online classes for young children is emphasized in order to not waste an academic year, parents and teachers are advised to talk to their children and not let their screens be the only guidance in these tough times. Regular breaks from classes and psychological supervision may help reduce the harsh effects of increased screen time among children. Audio classes for subjects teaching prose and poetry can be another alternative that the school administration can resort to in order to minimise the screen time and addiction. Parents need to encourage and engage their children with real conversations instead of digital ones, to rekindle their curiosity beyond mobile phones and laptops.

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