As we continue groping with the different waves of Pandemic for the second year on, remote classes using mobile devices continue for students. But what is the cost of such excessive usage of mobile devices in terms of physical and mental wellbeing of the students, especially children? DNI takes a look.
It is 10pm and Priya (name changed) has just completed her dinner and is preparing to take her son Jojo who is a toddler to sleep. Meanwhile Priya remembers she has an errand to run and it is her husband who is stuck on an important zoom call while trying his best to balance between the call and his son. Once Priya returns and tries to take Jojo to bed he suddenly starts crying.
Is Jojo well? Did he just hurt himself somehow while his father was on the call? These concerns immediately start troubling Priya and her husband. But they are quite bewildered to find out that Jojo is perfectly fine and he is crying because of his longing for his father’s new iPad which he was playing with and now that he needs to sleep he will no longer be able to play with the device.
Children’s addiction to mobile devices is not a new thing though and it is a problem that all parents have been dealing with since before the onset of Covid-19 Pandemic. However, thanks to the Pandemic, parents are now bound to give their children access to such devices for their classes which are mostly conducted remotely over Zoom, Meet or other conferencing softwares on mobile devices. Many children like Jojo are becoming overly addicted to the mobile devices, so much so that they would rather cry and protest than give up the device and get sleep. This is slowly becoming a new reason for concern for Parents, Teachers and Doctors alike.
Ever since the introduction of cell phones adults have started having this strange urge to stay connected and have FOMO or the Fear of Missing out something in case they are not connected. It is also leading to Phantom Pocket Vibration syndrome in which many of us feel that the phone is vibrating with some call or text notification when in reality it is not. This urge of staying connected is eventually costing our attention and mental energies leading to exhaustion and mental fatigue. Thanks to the new necessity of mobile device usage for online classes Children too have started developing their fair share of these problems which were only affecting us adults till date.
Other than mental fatigue, mobile devices are also severely impacting vision among children. Ideally a mobile should be used with a minimum distance of 12 – 16 inches away from the face which in cases of online classes can’t be ensured because at such distance students might be unable to follow whatever is being written and taught on the 5 – 12 inches mobile screens.
Excessive usage of Google search, Wikipedia and other Apps are also reducing the cognitive capabilities of Children since they can rely on the device to do calculations, find facts and images without having to remember or find out the answers of the questions themselves. We can only imagine if the trend continues then there might be cases where we will find students who won’t be able to do simple calculations on paper without the Calculator App on their mobile phones or tablets.
Usage of mobile phones and early exposure to the internet is also introducing Children to the dark web. Dark web is what constitutes most of the internet and can be accessed through secured browsers like Tor or VPN. While Dark web is not a bad place by itself the anonymous browsing of continents over the dark web makes it an ideal place for illegal contents of Pornography, Terrorism and Drugs. Browsing through the Dark web thus requires mature judgement which cannot be expected in Children who might end up browsing one of such illegal contents without knowing.
However, all hopes are not lost as Parents can still fight back these unhealthy impacts by following a few steps and putting in a little effort on their parts,
Make a Point to attend the online classes with the kids so that Parents can help the kid to cope up with the limitations of the 5 inch screen and contents without actually stressing the child.
Provide mobile phones only when required and be strict yet firm to not let kids near mobile devices when it is not required.
Find ways to engage Children through board games, comic books or other mediums that do not require the usage of mobile devices.
Parents can also cut their own Mobile usage time by ensuring not to use mobile phones in front of the kind. After all, children only develop affinity for whatever they see around.
While all parents and students are in this together, it is not too late to turn things around. Like all trying times this too probably is a phase that can be handled through careful judgement and a few adjustments. After all, nothing can be more important than ensuring a healthy childhood for the children.
Arunava Bhattacharya: DNI;