Digital Addiction

Digital Addiction

Is the younger generation heading for a new phase of technology addiction?

A 2011 UNICEF report estimated India’s population of adolescents to be around 243 million. A huge chunk of this demographic is also the likely target of internet service providers, as the average age of the web surfer gets younger every year.
With landline phones all but phased out worldwide, it is no surprise to see toddlers and preschoolers being allowed to use (and usually master) their parents’ electronic devices.
Despite the uneven spread of broadband internet in India, the love for smartphones and other hand-held electronic devices has exploded across nearly every sphere of life, and overturned ultimately, the way we behave. The pandemic further has introduced online education into everyone’s life, spinning a web with far-reaching changes.

Getting over-involved

It is very difficult to control gadget addiction, because it increases every day. Parents would have bought the children an electronic device worth lots of money, but it gets outdated after six months. Keeping updated is a constant struggle.

Cases of children turning suicidal over not owning a gadget of their choice are getting more common.

Being online constantly and seeing their parents using e-commerce portals, children are getting too accustomed to instant gratification, say doctors.

The internet-using generation of children has grown phenomenally in India since the year 2000. These digital natives see internet as a basic necessity. In the bargain, there is a compulsive desire not to wait for something to happen. Instant gratification is the worst for a child, because they don’t want to grow up to know how difficult it is to achieve or buy something.

Parenting puzzle

Parents, on the other hand, remain divided on the spread of gadget addiction. Some feel that a complete ban on technology products would never work in today’s competitive world.
Earlier, children could ask a teacher or visit the library for help with their lessons. Today, they use Google.

Children who don’t own their own devices tend to use their parents’ phones until they are old enough. But very often parents fail to check or specify limits on the time they may spend on the gadgets.

This has led to many children suffering from changed sleeping and eating patterns directly linked to phone overuse.

Adult problems

Using gadgets for babysitting is not a new phenomenon. But the isolation that handheld electronics force upon their users can have serious side-effects.

Adult health problems like weak eyesight, chronic upper body pain and even carpal tunnel syndrome due to prolonged use of smartphones and tablet computers are becoming more common among youngsters today. Of greater concern is their loss of social skills, and the ability to interact with the world outside the internet clique. Overusing gadgets affects sleep patterns, so most children are too tired and late for school. This affects not just academics, but also their relationship with other children.

Use and abuse

Stories of children ordering products on the sly with their parents credit cards are also getting common. Accidental purchases made due to parents leaving their card information on e-forms are another problem.

This is because, unlike a human parent, a gadget will not say “don’t do this”. So though there are good things about the internet, there is only a small difference between its use and abuse.

You are a gadget addict if:
1. You get anxious and irritable if you don’t have your favorite electronic gadget with you
2. You feel very upset when nobody responds to your latest online post
3. You have experienced chronic pain or developed spinal and posture problems due to overusing gadgets
4. You have forgotten how to have a face-to-face conversation with another human being
5. You find it difficult to separate your online persona (such as a character in a video game), from your offline (real) self
6. You have often used your gadget secretly late into the night to shop or visit websites with inappropriate content
7. You are ready to kill yourself if you don’t own the latest gadget
Tips for parents and teachers
1. Spend more time with your children; gadgets are more appealing when kids are lonesome
2. Set the limits on gadget usage and also on the type of device, and write it down as a contract to prevent arguments later
3. If your child is in the habit of sharing your device, make sure sensitive information like bank card details or office projects are out of his or her reach through encryption
4. Don’t buy a gadget because your children want to fit in with their social group. Buy it only if you are convinced of its utility (for them) and affordability (for you)
5. Create tech-free zones at home and in the class
6. See if you are setting a good example by being a judicious user of gadgets yourself