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Children’s mobile addiction amid Covid-19 could result in behavioural changes

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In addition to behavioural changes, cases of children suffering from redness and watering of eyes, blurred vision and even pain around the eyes have increased substantially in the past three months.

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WITH schools closed for more than five months now and online classes becoming the new normal, more and more children are now showing symptoms of mobile addiction that is causing behavioural problems.

A senior psychiatrist at the King George’s Medical University (KGMU) said that he had been getting cases where children were getting irritable, losing appetite and also complaining of headaches and eye problems.

“Since the pandemic is continuing, I am unable to hold counselling sessions with such children and I am only advising parents on dealing with the situation,” he said.

Psychiatrists at the Moti Lal Nehru hospital in Prayagraj have also noticed an increase in the number of parents bringing their children with problems of mobile addiction and behavioural changes.

Ishanya Raj, clinical psychologist at MLN hospital, said, “After meeting so many patients and doing counselling, we have observed some factors influencing the family dynamics during the lockdown. There is less interaction with children, poor parenting practices, lack of communication and supervision.”

Raj said that in most cases, every family member was busy in the virtual world during the pandemic. “Due to the current nuclear family structure, children do not have the opportunity to play and involve in other recreational activities. Schools are closed and children are relying on mobile phones to play games or watch other programmes.

Some children have been found to be using mobile phones for more than 12 hours in a day or more due to absence of interaction among family members. This is leading to behavioural issues and making the child irritable,” the psychologist said.

Suman Rawat, a young homemaker admitted that her two children – a son and a daughter – had shown definite behavioural changes. “They were well-behaved children but now they have started answering back. If I scold them, they start throwing things around and even misbehave with their grandparents. They want to go out and play but I cannot send them because of the Corona scare,” she said.

Rakesh Paswan, consultant psychiatrist in the same hospital said, “Through detailed analysis of the parenting style, the deficit areas need to be identified, and with the use of psychological interventions these kinds of issues can be tackled.”

The doctors said that parents were being advised to increase interaction with children even if they are on a work-from-home mode.

The problem is more severe if the family has a single child who, therefore, cannot interact with others in his or her age group. “We are asking them to allow physical activity for the child from within the home and spend more time interacting with them. The child should be made to take regular breaks from the mobile phones,” he said.

OP Rai, an ophthalmologist in Agra, said that cases of children suffering from redness and watering of eyes, blurred vision and even pain around the eyes have increased substantially in the past three months.