Smartphone addiction leading to health disorders in rural India
Mobile phone addiction among children is becoming common in the rural parts of the country where users of the internet have overtaken their urban counterparts. Village children spend several hours a day hooked to games like PUBG. This has serious repercussions, warn psychologists.
Manvendra Singh 24 Jun 2022 10:32 AM GMT
Pukhrayan (Kanpur), Uttar Pradesh
On June 4, when a mother ticked off her 16-year-old son for spending too much time on the PUBG video game on his mobile, he, in a fit of rage, shot her dead. This happened at Yamuna Nagar colony in Lucknow, the state capital of Uttar Pradesh.
About 150 kilometres away in Kanpur district, in a village in Pukhrayan block, 12-year-old Sonu is also addicted to playing games on his mobile phone.
"I loved to play cricket, but hardly anyone plays it any more in the village, and anyway it is too hot to play outdoors," Sonu told Gaon Connection. "I play games like PUBG on mobile for five hours every day," he said.
The pandemic resulted in children being handed mobiles to keep up with their online classes, and it became difficult for parents and caregivers to keep tabs on what else their wards were using their mobiles for, besides attending online classes.
Meanwhile, the reach of the internet in rural India has also increased in the past two years. According to Bharat 2.0 Internet Study released by Nielsen, a global leader in audience measurement, data and analytics, rural India has a 20 per cent higher presence of internet users than its urban counterpart with 352 million internet users in villages. The study also revealed that female users' growth in the last two years is a whopping 61 per cent per cent as compared to male users who grew at 24 per cent.
The June 4 incident in Lucknow has got parents in villages worried. "The children at home are constantly moving around with mobiles in their hands," Kiran Singh, a 36-year-old mother of a 13-year-old son, who lives in Budara village in Morena district, told Gaon Connection.
"If family members scold the children for being too long on their mobiles, they sulk and refuse to eat. Before the pandemic, we would complain if they spent too long playing outdoors. But now, we urge them to go out and get some fresh air and play," she said.
Also Read: Mobile-addict kids: It's a ticking time bomb
According to the World Health Organization, online gaming can lead to gaming disorders, a condition, which can have serious repercussions on the wellness and development of children.
"I spend all my time playing games on my mobile phone," 17-year-old Shashank (name changed) from Pukhrayan Block in Kanpur district, told Gaon Connection. He admitted to feeling irritation if anyone interrupted his game. "The desire to play on and reach the next level in the game is all consuming. And, I have no time for anything else," he said.
Stages of mobile addiction
There are three stages to mobile addiction, explained Neha Anand. She is a psychologist and member of the assessment panel of Juvenile Justice in Uttar Pradesh. "The first stage is just the attraction of owning a mobile. The second is getting to use it and finally it is the thrill of discovering its features and the various ways it can be used," she told Gaon Connection.
Mobile addiction is more in nuclear families where both parents work and the children are left unsupervised.
Many adults in villages are still unfamiliar with the use of the mobiles and the internet and hence they are not able to supervise their children or know if the children are studying or playing games.
"There is need for supervision of the children who are using mobiles," Gyanedndra Singh, an English teacher at the government school in Pukhrayan, told Gaon Connection. "It is the age of technology and it is but natural children will spend time on the internet. But their supervisors should ration the time they spend with the mobile and encourage them to go outside and play, and spend more time with their kids," he added.
"Mobile addiction is leading to nomophobia, which is a psychological condition when people have a fear of being detached from mobile phone connectivity," psychologist Neha Singh said. "It might start as a harmless few minutes spent on the mobile. But gradually the time increases and people begin to spend hours on the instrument," she explained. This could lead to mood swings, sleep disorders, temper tantrums, etc, she warned.
It is important for the parents to know a little about the internet and mobile phones. They should realise how mobile phones could hamper the emotional, intellectual and physical development of their children. There are parental locks and child lock facilities on the mobile phones and the parents should know how to utilise them, Neha Singh said.
"Be alert to what game your child plays online, make sure your child has limited time with the mobile and on the internet and keep an eye out for any behavioural changes in the children," advised Devashish Shukla, a psychologist from Lucknow.
"It is easy to detect mobile addiction. Children get forgetful, get irritable, become reclusive and may want to spend time alone. Soon, they begin to display similar behaviour as those of people suffering anxiety disorders and depression," he cautioned.
Note: Names of children have been changed to protect their identify.