Srinagar- The excessive use of smartphones, besides causing neurological disorders, including fragmented focus and insomnia, is significantly contributing to the speech delay among children in Kashmir.
Four to five children with speech delays, as a result of excessive screen usage are seen at the District Early Intervention Centre (DEIC) at the government’s G.B Pant Hospital here on a daily basis.
Health professionals blame the inability of parents to speak with their children owing to their hectic work schedules or other commitments, as the primary cause of children’s speech delay problems.
“When parents buy expensive phones for their kids, they become alienated and only focus on what appears on the mobile phone’s screen. We see four to five children on an average with speech delay disorder at DEIC. A child’s social-emotional development and parent-child interactions may suffer from excessive mobile use,” said Danish Iqbal, Speech Therapist at DEIC.
According to Danish, the problem of speech delay among Kashmiri children worsened during Covid-19, since the bulk of individuals were engrossed in their mobile phones at home during the pandemic.
“If a kid’s parents do not engage with them and support their early physical and mental development, a child can lose his or her capacity to speak for the rest of his or her life. This happens because excessive use of cell phones hinders their growth,” he added.
A rise in the chance of obesity, sleep issues, and mental health illnesses including melancholy and anxiety are just a few of the negative impacts of excessive screen use on social and emotional development.
The problem was further highlighted in a 2022 research “Increase in screen-time for children in Covid times and its effects,” which was carried out by the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine at Government Medical College (GMC), Srinagar.
According to the research, 94.1% of parents thought that their kids’ mental health was suffering as a result of prolonged screen use. Furthermore, the study showed a connection between childhood obesity rates and screen usage, inactivity, sedentary lifestyles, and inadequate exercise.
President Doctors Association of Kashmir (DAK), Dr Nisar-ul-Hassan asserted that in addition to the periodic surveys on the topic, the World Health Organization (WHO) has strongly advised against giving smartphones to the children as the same hinder their mental and emotional development.
Dr. Hassan said the parents should avoid providing their kids cell phones as they have an adverse effect on their capacity building.
“Giving children smartphones at a young age prevents them from developing their full potential. According to surveys conducted from time to time; parents think the practice will keep their children occupied and make it easier for them to do their daily tasks. But this negative practice leads to speech delay in kids,” Dr Hassan said.
He said the parents should be aware of the detrimental effects of mobile phones on their children.
“Kids experience a high prevalence of mental and physical health problems that are linked to excessive use of technology like smartphones,” he said
Dr Hassan said that the majority of official guidelines state that by the age of 13, a child is prepared for smartphone usage under scrutiny.
“I regret the day I gave my 3-year-old kid a cell phone. I am a government employee and I am stationed approximately 20 km from my house. Actually, my son is a little naughty and often bothers her mother at home. Initially I thought the phone would distract his attention and cause him to quit bothering his mother, but now that my lone kid doesn’t even recognize my voice, I am deeply worried,” said a parent, wishing anonymity.
A couple from South Kashmiri told Kashmir Observer that their 4-year-old daughter spends most of her time on her phone and that this excessive screen time has slowed down her speech development.
We attend DEIC twice a month with the hope that our kid would be able to talk since we are unsure of how to stop her from using her cell phone excessively, they said.
Medical Superintendent DEIC, Dr. Abdul Rashid Parra said that Kashmir is seeing an epidemic of child-mobile phone addiction, and as a result of their excessive screen time, kids have lost their ability to communicate.
“In Kashmir, excessive screen time has become a pandemic. It’s causing numerous health issues in addition to impeding children’s early development. We recommend parents to spend as much time with their kids at home as parent-children interaction plays an important role in a child’s physical and mental development,” Dr Parra told Kashmir Observer.
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