How many times have you come across a child, who at a young age is using either a smart phone or a tablet PC with an internet connection? Have you asked yourself about the impact or the influence it has over the poor little one? Giving a child a mobile phone or a tablet PC, especially at an early age, is a double-edged sword.
Even though they can use it as an educational tool, at an early age, and without adult supervision, it can result in catastrophic consequences in their behaviour as well as their health.
Children who have internet access are exposed to enormous amounts of information, images, photos, videos, and contents that often are not suitable or appropriate for their age and reasoning. Moreover, childhood is where they start to learn and explore and also when they build a foundation for their personality through social interactions and interactions with the environment. So we have to pay attention to the resources they learn from.
Health wise, children who use smartphones for long periods tend to be less active, and this inactivity puts them at risk of being obese and developing other comorbidities associated with obesity such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease, later in life.
Our brains are sensitive to electromagnetic waves/fields and cellphones produce them and it’s thought to affect our brains. Besides, prolonged exposure to the blue light coming out of their screens may cause irreversible damage to their eyes.
Another issue is that they tend to stay up late and this mainly affects their growth because growth hormone is only secreted while they are sleeping. It also affects their academic performance because when they stay up late the next day they will wake up either late or tired and they might miss their classes or pay less attention to them which will result in lower grades and performance.
Also one of the greatest risks of using smartphones by children is the negative impact it has on their behaviour and personality, watching videos on YouTube and other websites of other children of the same age or even older misbehaving encourages them to misbehave, too. Usually, a child who is using a smartphone prefers to stay alone and far from other people to live in their own “virtual life” and that may lead to social isolation and it also teaches them to be violent and hostile as most of the games available on smartphones and other devices are fighting and killing games. Imagine what kind of people are they going to be when they grow up.
Last, but not the least, technology is all around us and it’s available almost everywhere and its use by our children is inevitable. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be accessible to them at an early age. And if you are confused about when to give your child a phone, some experts say that there is no fixed age but it depends upon the level of maturity and responsibility your child exhibits.
(The author has done her internship at Hamad Medical Corporation and completed ‘Principles and Practice of Clinical Research Program PPCR from Harvard T.H. CHAN, School of public Health (March-November 2019).