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Social Dilemma!! By Skand Agarwal

Parents finding it hard to manage the extreme behaviour issues of children due to increased online time of children during pandemic

“I am baffled. I don’t know what to do, whenever I ask my son to leave the mobile phone even for an hour or least on the dining table, he simply locks himself in the bathroom and refuses to respond or communicate. I have been watching this development for a year and a half, but things worsened during the pandemic. I am trying to find a counsellor for him now”, says a Delhi based mother of a teenage boy. She is a doctor herself but unable to understand and handle digital addiction of her son.

Abhipriy Burman, a 21-year old law student is worried for his younger brother.  He is frustrated to see his brother searching for quick answers for the questions as an easy option rather than studying the chapters, “it is difficult to restrict my school going brother from the gadgets when all his classmates are doing almost the same. Earlier when we used to have everything offline, we had a fear of not passing with adequate marks, but now since everything is conveniently available on the net especially in the times of online examinations, children have lost that fear too. All they do is search for the answers online and mug them up. They have lost their ability to think and form their own opinions”.

A common concern of every Parents is the increased mobile phone time of their children.

Adverse impact of online education

Online education came as a great alternative to compensate closed schools during the pandemic, but the adverse effect of long hours of online indulgences have already started showing up in the children. Parents are complaining of adverse behaviour changes in children like aggression, irritability and many more problems like children getting easy access to all the answers online which is affecting their learning abilities.

Parents are finding it hard to handle and manage the digital “over-indulgence” of children. Although some parents are continuously tracking the online classroom activities by physically sitting with their wards but for majority of the parents this is not possible as children have projects and extra-curricular activities non-stop lined up even after the online classes are over for the day. In such situations it is becoming difficult to track the online activities of children.

Education was one of the biggest challenges of lockdowns due to covid 19 and online education came as a big relief to the parents and schools, but 6 to 7 months of long online schooling period which expected children to sit in front of the screen is proving to be a bane now.

Govind Gupta is pained to see his younger brother hooked to screen almost entire day.  His brother was a sports person and never wanted to stay at home. Due to pandemic and not much to do at home he is now stuck between the digital screen and strenuous mental tiredness. Lately, he has also started showing frustration and irritation when checked for his digital indulgence. “We try to divert him by sometimes playing games like chess and carrom and sometime also go out so that he stays away from the digital world for at least a while”, says Govind.

Digital Indulgence and behaviour changes in Children

A 2017 extensive UNICEF study called ‘Children in a Digital World’ tells us about the myriad benefits furnished by digital education, but also cautions us against Digital Dangers such as Cyberbullying, Online sexual abuse and Negative Mental Impact.

Long term effect of lockdown and pandemic is affecting children which are the most vulnerable lot of all. Digital involvement of children was inevitable when there hardly was any other activity during the lockdown and many families enjoyed their own way of digital media time during which now is showing its bad side.

Parents are complaining about a general irritability, impatience and nonresponsive in children. There are growing incidents of rifts among the families specially parents and children.

Due to minimized interaction with the outside world even the inhouse games and recreations are not helping. Frustration is looming large and resulting in a major impact on the children’s behaviour.

Children have started showing numerous kinds of disorders such as anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and also Nomophobia–fear of being without access to a working phone, as explained by Sudip Bhattacharya in a study called ‘NOMOPHOBIA: No Mobile Phone Phobia, published in NCBI, USA.

“Young children in particular look towards their parents for cues on how to respond to their environment. When parents feel high heightened and are in palpable states of stress and anxiety, it starts to affect the children as well”, points out Gunjan sahni, a Delhi based Psychologist.

Unfortunately, the impact is not short lived. “Coronavirus, in part because of social isolation and prolonged uncertainty, would potentially create emotional problems and challenges for children for months or even years to come”, emphasizes Gunjan sahni.

Keeping children off from gadgets is indeed a challenge for the parents but “social isolation has left young children disoriented. They often do not know how to express their emotions in such cases”, says the Psychologist Gunjan sahni.

According to a UNICEF study—’How does the time children spend using digital technology impact their mental well-being, social relationships and physical activity?’, excessive use of digital technology can have negative impact on a child’s mental wellbeing.

Challenges of Social Media

Contemporary documentaries like ‘The Social Dilemma’ also clearly puts out, how a very early engagement of children with social media has developed the sense of short-term beauty validation and confinement in the world of constant digital updates and online connected lives.

With online classes and project engaging children for continuously for longer hours of the day, it is getting difficult for parents to manage digital involvement of children.

“We cannot ignore the online classes, but parents need to ensure that their children are not engaged with the devices after the classes for longer hours”, says Sahaj Kamra who is struggling to regulate her brother’s digital activities.

So, what are the options to manage onscreen time of children when it is a necessity too?

Should the government take any action and bring about some policy changes? What are the options in such situations?

  1. After the classes, parents should try spending as much time together with the child as possible. In house games like Chess, Carrom or Uno are big stress buster, which can also distract child’s attention from electronics.
  2. Maintaining communication with children is important. Keep reminding children about the side effects of excessive use of mobile phones and laptops.
  3. It is up to the parents to help maintaining the balanced use of digital devices.
  4. Even if the child is engaged with devices more than what is permissible, it is important for the parents to keep patience. Daily constant talks and interactions can help ease the situations.
  5. If things are not working out, reach out to a counsellor as soon as possible. Taking help from a psychologist is never a bad idea, it is going to give you a positive response.
(The views expressed in the article belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion, beliefs and view point of the owners of asiannewsmakers.com)

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