To discourage him, she tried locking the screen. But it was of little help, as he would incessantly demand for it. It was then that the couple decided to stop using phones in front of him. “For a few months, we didn’t use phones in front of him. He used to take the tablet to play games so we stopped charging it. All this helped reduce his dependence on technology significantly,” said Archana.
While in India, the data on overdependence on technology among pre-teens is scarce, global data suggests even six to ten year olds are hooked to technology that distracts and exposes children to online bullying, among other things. “We have come across many children who are good at solving tough puzzles in online or app-based games. But when they are asked to solve a simple mathematic equation, they find it difficult,” said Dr Pravat Mandal, professor of neuroimaging at National Brain Research Centre.
NBRC, he added, plans to take up the project to map the brain activity of children hooked to technology from a young age, and use it to assess the impact of technology. “As clinicians, we have been witnessing sharp increase in use of technology among pre-teens which is not good. But scientific evidence is needed to explain how and what it causes,” said Dr Anupam Sibal, paediatrician and group medical director, Apollo hospital.
The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) recommends monitoring the use of websites and social media platforms children visit by parents. “Technology per say is not bad. It is needed for the overall development of children. But overdependence on it is certainly a worrying trend. Such children often interact less with parents or avoid participating in real life activities,” said Dr Kameshwar Prasad, professor and head of neurology at AIIMS. Children less than two years of age should not be exposed to the screen and even as they grow, such dependence should be restricted to a minimum so that they participate in physical activities, Dr Nitin Verma, pediatrician at Max hospital, Saket, added.
TOI had reported in February about two brothers who were addicted to gaming and required a month of rehabilitation in the psychiatry ward of Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) hospital. Always engrossed in gaming, they had no time for studies, meals, bathing or changing clothes. They slept fitfully, ignored phone calls and the doorbell, and twice turned a blind eye to robbers cleaning out their house. The most odious symptom of their decline was the habit of defecating and urinating in their clothes while playing.