The excessive use of smartphones is not only contributing to a surge in neurological disorders among children in Kashmir but is also significantly impacting their ability to speak and communicate effectively, say the health experts in their interview to this paper. At GB Pant Hospital, Kashmir’s major healthcare facility, doctors say they are seeing four to five children who exhibit speech delays attributed to their excessive screen time. This growing problem reflects a broader problem within society. Smartphones have become endemic to our lives and children are not insulated from this.
One of the root causes of this crisis is the inability of parents to engage in meaningful conversations with their children. Hectic work schedules and other commitments often leave parents with little time to interact with their kids. Instead, they resort to the temporary pacifier that smartphones seem to offer. For many, the lure of using smartphones to occupy and entertain children proves tempting. However, it is important to acknowledge the consequences. By providing their children with expensive phones, parents inadvertently alienate them, as their focus becomes fixated on the digital screens. The consequences are dire, as children’s social-emotional development and parent-child interactions suffer due to excessive mobile use, as our story adequately highlights.
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated this issue as people were confined to their homes, increasingly glued to their mobile devices. With parents consumed by their screens, children’s opportunities for face-to-face interaction dwindled, pushing them further into the digital world. This led to a rise in various health problems, including obesity, sleep issues, and mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.
A 2022 study conducted by the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine at Government Medical College (GMC) also highlighted this grim reality. The research found that 94.1 percent of parents believed their children’s mental health was suffering due to prolonged screen use. The study also revealed a link between childhood obesity rates and screen time, inactivity, sedentary lifestyles, and insufficient physical activity.
It is thus imperative that parents reconsider the impact of excessive smartphone use on their children. The solution lies in re-establishing real-world connections and nurturing the fundamental parent-child relationship. It is true that the problem is not confined to Kashmir alone, it is a worldwide worry. In Kashmir, as in many parts of the world, the parents should be made to realize the crucial role that genuine human interactions play in a child’s development. The onus is on parents to recognize the detrimental effects of excessive mobile phone use and take steps to keep their children away from it, more so, in the early years of their life.
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