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NAVIGATING A DIGITAL ERA | United and divided by mobile phones

12:40 AM Feb 13, 2024 IST | Guest Contributor
navigating a digital era   united and divided by mobile phones
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Srinagar, Feb 12: Echoes of diverse lives filled the air of parks.

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Children would burst into laughter, teenagers went hell for leather playing cricket, a health-conscious professional burned calories while jogging, and grandparents went down memory lane sharing cherished tales.

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Suddenly, a paradigm shift occurred transforming the bustling parks. Now the solitude of homes has replaced their vibrant parks.

Now children are seen watching videos on YouTube, teenagers are captivated by online games, and professionals are busy composing emails and working from home while grandparents scroll through family photos.

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Everyone is united yet divided by the omnipresent mobile phones.

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This reveals how mobile phones have seamlessly intertwined with life, transcending generational boundaries.

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The once-united park now experiences a subtle division with screens illuminating faces and conversations becoming virtual.

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The profound ubiquity of mobile phones shapes a modern narrative of connections, disconnections, and the dance between the tangible and the digital in life’s intricate ballet.

The world is full of smartphones, and kids are growing up around them.

Kids are now being exposed to screens at younger ages, and those who spend significant time on mobile devices are more prone to developing behavioural issues like depression and anxiety, which is alarming.

The prevalence of random video reels and cartoons on mobile phones, akin to mobile game addiction – officially recognised by the World Health Organisation as a mental health condition - is emerging as a significant concern.

The impact of excessive exposure to these elements poses a notable challenge, particularly among children.

Mobile phones have evolved into modern babysitters, yet their impact on babies and toddlers goes beyond the commonly discussed concerns.

Excessive screen time, although a brief reprieve for parents, is linked to potential risks, including the development of atypical sensory-processing behaviours among children.

Shedding light on the detrimental effects and the crucial role parents play in mitigating this issue, Consultant Clinical Psychologist at the Center for Mental Health Services at Rambagh, Wasim Kakroo says, “The escalating dependency on mobile phones manifests withdrawal symptoms similar to those observed in various addictions, resulting in heightened anxiety, mood swings, and irritability when access is restricted. As mobile addiction deepens, we witness a concerning rise in impulsivity, adversely affecting the delicate fabric of interpersonal relationships among the children.”

The parental role in averting or addressing mobile phone addiction is pivotal, with infants introduced to phones early, risking harmful screen time exposure.

The research emphasises the significance of limiting toddler screen time to one hour within 24 hours for optimal development.

Regrettably, contemporary parenting often relies on mobiles to appease tantrums, inadvertently subjecting children to excessive screen exposure, hindering brain development, and fostering potential links to autism. Responsible parenting necessitates recognising these risks.

“Parents should actively engage in their child’s life and step out of their comfort zone. Parenthood demands involvement, and claiming the need for personal space is untenable. Establishing a profound connection with the child is imperative for fostering self-understanding,” he said.

Communication strategies for parents to curb the potential harms of excessive mobile phone use involve leading by example, recognising that children absorb actions more than verbal guidance.

Encouraging outdoor activities and offering constructive alternatives to combat boredom effectively a possible way out. Short reels, known to disrupt attention spans and induce frustration, should be replaced with longer, content-regulated activities.

Prioritising such activities mitigates negative effects associated with prolonged screen time, ensuring a healthier digital environment for children.

Shabnum, a mother of two, shares valuable insights into her strategic approach to managing screen time for her children.

While maintaining reservations about excessive mobile phone use, she pragmatically acknowledges the practicality of limited periods when necessary, recognising mobile phones as convenient distractions.

“I’m against excessive phone use, but sometimes practicality takes precedence, and mobile phones become a handy distraction,” Shabnum says. She employs the art of storytelling, skillfully fostering engagement without resorting to screens.

A conscious effort to combat boredom involves introducing her children to traditional games like tic-tac-toe and Chor Sipahi, actively promoting a reduction in reliance on screens.

When it comes to achieving a balanced screen time, she advocates limited educational use aligned with school requirements.

This underscores her commitment to a holistic and mindful approach, ensuring her children’s digital engagement aligns with their overall well-being.

Creating a balanced digital lifestyle involves setting clear boundaries and fostering healthy habits.

For children with mobile phone addiction, gradual screen time reduction, engaging in alternative activities, and encouraging face-to-face interactions are key.

For all children, emphasising a mix of screen and non-screen activities, monitoring content, and promoting outdoor play contribute to a well-rounded and balanced digital lifestyle.

By NAZAKAT ASLAM

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