In a rapidly digitising world, the proliferation of screen exposure through smartphones, tablets, computers, and laptops is having a significant impact on the mental health of people, particularly among young adults and children.
Mental health professionals in Kashmir have raised concerns about the growing prevalence of issues such as anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders, primarily due to excessive screen time.
The use of screens for work, education, and leisure has become an integral part of modern life, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as screen time increases, experts warn that the consequences on mental well-being are becoming increasingly apparent.
Dr. Syed Karrar, a renowned Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist practicing at the Child Guidance and Wellbeing Center-IMHANS in Kashmir says excessive use of smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices can have several negative impacts on children and young adults.
"Excessive screen time can lead to physical health problems such as obesity, poor posture, and sleep disturbances due to the blue light emitted from screens disrupting sleep patterns," he said.
Dr. Karrar says that excessive screen time can hinder the development of social skills and emotional intelligence, as it may replace face-to-face interactions and limit opportunities for emotional growth.
"There is a link between excessive screen time and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression in children. It can discourage physical activity, which is crucial for a child’s overall health and development," he said.
Dr. Karrar said that addressing mobile screen addiction in children requires a combination of parental guidance, education, and creating a healthy balance between screen time and other activities.
While the mental health professionals in Kashmir continue to witness the adverse effects of screen exposure on the well-being of their patients; they stress the importance of addressing this issue collectively.
Through education, awareness, and individual effort, it is possible to mitigate the negative consequences and promote healthier screen habits in the digital age.
Wasim Kakroo, Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Centre for Mental Health Services Kashmir, has drawn attention to the growing problem of screen addiction and its detrimental effects on individuals, particularly among children and adolescents.
He told Rising Kashmir that excessive screen usage to a group of negative behaviors with adverse outcomes, akin to using a digital drug.
"Constantly engaging in activities such as playing video games, watching TV, or endlessly scrolling through social media can create a digital dependency that affects our brain similarly to how drugs do," he said.
Dr. Kakroo says the release of dopamine induced by screen usage can impair impulse control and adversely impact the frontal cortex of the brain, much like the effects of cocaine.
Highlighting the concerning consequences of screen addiction, Kakroo says individuals caught in this cycle may develop a screen addiction disorder. This addiction encompasses a range of screens, including computers, phones, televisions, and video games.
"Screen addiction can disrupt a child's daily routine, affecting essential activities such as eating and studying. They may gradually distance themselves from their regular activities and family members, struggling to focus or pay attention, resulting in declining interest in their studies," he added.
Insha Bashir Sofi, Counselor at JVC Hospital Bemina Srinagar, says that excessive screen exposure can disrupt our sleep patterns, exacerbate stress levels, and contribute to feelings of isolation and depression.
"We have observed a concerning rise in these issues among our patients, especially among young adults and children. The screen's constant stimulation can lead to digital addiction and a sense of anxiety. People are constantly bombarded with information, and this can overwhelm the mind," she added.
Insha said that although screens are an essential part of modern life, it is crucial to use them mindfully. Finding a balance between screen time and other activities can significantly contribute to better mental health, she added.
In light of these concerns, experts suggest parents and guardians should closely monitor and regulate their children's screen time. Encouraging physical activities and fostering face-to-face social interactions can help mitigate the negative consequences associated with excessive screen exposure.