Digital Addiction Among Children on the Rise: Are We Responsible?

“You wouldn’t give a shot of whiskey to a crying child, right? Then why is it ok to hand him or her an addictive phone?”

— Chetan Bhagat

As a society, we have become increasingly reliant on technology, and nowhere is this more evident than in the way we raise our children. From a young age, we are giving our children access to smartphones and tablets, and as they grow older, we are allowing them to spend more and more time on these devices. While there are benefits to using technology but it’s lethal to get consumed by it. Once addicted, it is not we but technology that starts consuming us. And this is becoming so apparent in our youth, particularly among children, who are facing many mental and health issues due to the overdose of these narcotic smartphones.

According to the National Achievement Survey (NAS) 2021 data published in TOI, Bengaluru stands among the highest cities for addiction to phones among children. As per the data, 73% of kids in the age group- 2 years to 8 years have access to mobile phones. And this further increases to 88% in higher secondary school(class 10).

Another survey was conducted, by the physicians, of JK Lone Hospital, Jaipur, post-pandemics, in major cities of Rajasthan and a few metro cities of India. The results, distinctively, indicated that the screen time among children on the phone increased 2–3 times ( from 1–2 hours per day to 4–5 hours per day).

The Concern –

The common concern shared by most child psychologists and pediatricians is that this addiction has led to a tremendous rise in weight issues, headaches, eye pain, poor academic performance, anxiety, sleeping disorders, anger, and other behavioral issues, among children and teenagers. The direct interactions among the kids have reduced as they are more comfortable talking to each other through texts and chats, where no one can observe their reactions. Such children hesitate to connect directly with the real world and like being in their virtual world. Moreover, more hours on the screen hugely impact their ability to focus.

Therefore, child specialists are urging parents to keep a watch, on their kid’s screen time.

So, who is responsible for making our Children Digital Addicts? Is it us, the parents, or technology?
Well, the answer is we as parents are to an extent responsible for it, says the team of experts studying this pattern.

Myth —

As parents, we believe we can make them understand only through preaching.

Reality —

Preaching has short life unless Preacher should action it through practice. We are making our children addicted to phones because we are not modeling healthy behavior ourselves. Many parents are just as addicted to their phones as their children. And, this conveys a message that technology is more important than personal relationships or other activities. It’s easy to blame technology for all their problems. But have we ever stopped to think that maybe, just maybe, we’re the ones to blame?

If we’re not modeling healthy behavior ourselves, how can we expect our kids to do the same? It’s like the old saying goes, “Monkey see, monkey do.” And let me tell you, our little monkeys are watching our every move. So, what message do you think we’re sending if we’re constantly checking our phones during dinner or scrolling through social media instead of engaging with our kids? It’s no wonder they’re addicted to their phones. We’re addicted to ours too! Sure, there are times when we need to be available on the phone, but let’s be honest, most of the time we’re just mindlessly scrolling.

Kid talking on the phone photo

Let’s take a step back and re-evaluate our behavior before we start pointing fingers at our kids. It’s time to break the cycle and show them that there’s more to life than a screen.

Myth –

As parents, we believe that a phone is given to a Child to engage them in productive activities to cut down their boredom

Reality –

One of the main reasons why we are making our children addicted to phones is that we are using technology as a way to keep them ‘just occupied’. In today’s fast-paced world, we parents are often too busy to spend quality time with our children, so we turn to technology as a way to keep them entertained. But have you ever paused to think about what that might be doing to our kids?

Aren’t they missing out on some seriously essential social skills because we’re too busy shoving a screen in their face? We’re depriving them of the chance to develop the social skills such as communication, empathy, and cooperation that are going to be so important for them for healthy human relationships and meaningful life.

Read: How Social Media Addiction Comes at a Cost

Think about it — when was the last time you saw a group of kids playing outside without a phone in sight? It’s like they don’t even know how to interact with each other anymore. My little nephew, for example, is only eight years old, and he can’t go more than 5 minutes without checking his phone. And it’s not just him, I see it everywhere I go. At the park, in restaurants, even in school! These kids are missing out on so much because they’re too busy scrolling through or playing games. It’s like they’re in their little world, and nothing else matters. It’s like they’re physically attached to them. Isn’t all this alarming?

At the age when our children should be curious enough to explore the world around them, they are knowing the world through a digital eye. So, don’t be surprised that one day your child comes and tells you that he or she need not learn ethics and morals from you because- I have my ‘Google Baba’ to guide me.

So, maybe it’s time to put down the phone and talk to each other. Indulge with them in reading books, playing indoor and outdoor games. Let’s give our kids the chance to learn how to interact with each other in the real world, instead of just through a screen.

Myth —

Let the kid do what they want to do without any set guidelines

Reality —

Another reason why we are making our children addicted to phones is that we are not setting clear boundaries around their use. I mean, let’s be real here. Kids and phones? It’s a recipe for disaster. And if you don’t set any boundaries? Forget about it. They’ll be addicted faster than you can say “Snapchat. And who can blame them? With all the games, social media, and endless scrolling, it’s no wonder they’re hooked.

But as parents, it’s our job to set limits and teach them that there’s a time and a place for everything. And that includes phone usage. Because if we don’t, we’re just setting them up for a lifetime of addiction and dependency.

In a nutshell, take a pause and scroll up and highlight any point that as a parent, you are not aware of. I bet you won’t be finding any such line. As a parent, we are very much aware of- the Angel and Devil aspect of technology but still shy away from safeguarding our family and children as harm is not immediately visible. And, we are happy to play ignorant as we see a child smiling while engaging with a gadget. Even though that few seconds smile may turn into a disastrous addiction, that will have painful effects in the long run.

As parents, let’s help this new generation to understand the meaning of a Real Smile than the Fake ones of Hashtags and Emojis.

This article was first published in Storizen Magazine May 2023 Issue.