On 4 July 2017, Indians woke up to this shocking headline in 'The Indian Express', “Nine-year-old cuts arm with knife in ‘youngest case’ of dependence”.
It brought us face-to-face with the fact that the dependency of young children on these gadgets has become so great that some can’t live without it even for a few minutes.
So, what can you do to prevent your child from becoming dependent or addicted to smartphones?
My all-time favourite tip is to ‘lead by example’, as it is often a case of, ‘Children see, Children do’.
When my son was growing up, we had house rules that all of us followed. We made it a point to spend time together–walking, playing and eating. For, each one of us was busy with work/school for most part of the day.
After dinner, we read a book together. Reading together is a wonderful activity, as its benefits are many. It helps build vocabulary, develop reading and writing skills, and so on. Being physically active through play is another effective way to minimise smartphone time for children. And, finally, explain to children in an age-appropriate way why sitting glued to a screen is bad for health.
I remember a recent picture someone sent me of a family get-together where all the ten members were busy with their phones. How ironic! A get-together where each person is busy with the phone!
The smartphone is truly a gadget of convenience. But, depending on how you use it, it can either run your life or ruin it. —*Vidya Sury
As a parent, first of all, you need to know the detrimental effects of smartphones on children.
Here’s a list of adverse effects of smartphone use in children:
- Behavioural problems
- Addiction to the gadget
- Sleep disturbances
- Attention and hearing issues
- Problems of the nervous system
Here are some ways in which we can keep our children away from both smartphones and their harmful radiation.
- Keep your child engaged: With shrinking play spaces, more and more children are forced to stay indoors. As a result, children spend their time playing with toys. Some also get hooked to gadgets like smartphones, which also double up as entertainment devices. To prevent this from happening, take your child out to the park or some nearby playground to allow him to spend his time running and playing. If that is not an option, enrol him in a neighbourhood sports club.
- Restrict the use: As smartphones are now an inseparable part of our lives, it is difficult to keep them away from children. Sooner or later, your child may become hooked to them. Therefore, it is important to make your child understand that she can use the smartphone, but only for a short time. Discourage its use during mealtimes, study hours, bedtime or when it’s time to go out and play.
- Talk to your child: The vibrant colours and animations appearing on the smartphone screen appear attractive to children. Talk to your child and make him aware of the harmful effects of smartphone usage on health. Show him charts that explain the various adverse effects or one of the videos available on Youtube.
- Set passwords: It is not always possible for you to be around your child to dissuade him from using a smartphone. In such a situation, technology itself can come to your rescue. Set a password on your phone so that your child cannot use it while you are away.
- Set a good example: There are a number of parents who spend a lot of time on their smartphones. In such cases, instructing children may not be of much use, as they are bound to follow their parents’ footsteps. So, be a good role model for your child by limiting your usage of the phone. However, if your profession demands using phones a lot, do it away from the eyes of your child.
- Bond with your child: Although most parents lead very busy lives, it is important to take the time out for family bonding activities with children. Playing board games or engaging your child along with you in activities such as cooking or gardening will keep her away from smartphones. You can also join your child in pursuing hobbies like listening to music, reading or painting.
Apart from using the above methods to keep your child away from a smartphone, you can also do the following to protect him from the harmful effects of mobile phone radiation.
- Buy a mobile phone with low radiation level: With the use of smartphones becoming unavoidable, it is better to buy one with a low Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) value. The SAR value is the amount of radiation absorbed per kilogram of body tissue. You can check a phone’s SAR value by dialling *#07#. The maximum SAR level allowed in India is 1.6 W/kg.
- Avoid use while travelling: Keep your smartphone away from your child while travelling in a moving vehicle, like a car, bus or train. A mobile phone in a moving vehicle keeps scanning for the signal and, in the process, emits more radiation.
- Don’t allow your child to speak from a smartphone: Many times, it so happens that those with whom you are speaking may request you to let your child speak to them. Politely tell such callers that you will call them back from your landline phone and hand it over to your child to speak to them.
Adopt the above measures, take no chances, and keep your child away from smartphones.
*Vidya Sury is a writer, editor, and award-winning blogger. Visit her at http://vidyasury.com, where she writes to collect smiles and donate to charities.