Like many places, normal life has been hit hard in Kashmir and forced people to stay indoors which means they spend long hours in front of electronic gadgets including mobiles, laptops and online games.
Experts said the enhanced screen time can have detrimental effects on the body and mind of young and old alike so people need to be careful and follow certain guidelines to prevent it from disrupting their lives.
Psychiatrists define gadget addiction as an obsessive behaviour which interferes with usual living and causes rigorous stress and impacts the overall performances of the user.
“These days we are seeing gadget addiction greatly affecting the mental status of children and youth,” said Dr Abdul Majid, Associate Professor and Head, Department of Psychiatry, SKIMS Medical College, Bemina.
“Most common symptoms are significantly related with psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety, social isolation and disturbed in sleep,” he said.
Dr Majid said the prolonged gadget addiction can lead to more serious issues like gaming disorder and gambling disorder.
“We must save ourselves and our children from this by limiting gadget use and increasing outdoor and physical activities. Otherwise, the children can indulge in overuse, gambling, pornography and other immoral activities online in absence of monitoring,” he said.
Impact on musculoskeletal system
Dr Suhail Mir, a well-known physiotherapist and president J&K Physiotherapists Association said people who are spending a lot of time using electronic gadgets actually restrict their physical activity and outdoor activity which is a leading cause of severe pain in them.
“The pain is usually due to muscle damage and change in the skeletal system. Most of the severe cases of musculoskeletal injuries occur due to bad posturing and excessive use of electronic gadgets,” he said.
Mir said he receives a lot of patients including minor children, teenagers and adults with permanent damage to their body as they are adopting a poor posture at home or work place.
He said the patients mostly complain of joint and muscle pain, and muscle-related issues which we need to treat as early as possible otherwise it will have a lifetime impact on their body.
“Other complaints which people, especially children come up with are neck, shoulder and back pain, tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive use injuries,” he said.
He said the symptoms if left untreated can have long term impact and can lead to metabolic and lifestyle disorders like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and sleep disorders.
“It’s better for them to consult the physiotherapy clinic immediately so that further damage is prevented,” said Mir, who has also worked at Saud Al-Babtain Cardiac Center (SBCC), Saudi Arabia as Head of the department.
He said that people should not sit at one place for more than thirty minutes and recommended that they should adopt a regular exercise pattern and physical activities.
Bad on Eye Health
According to ophthalmologists, the Covid-19 pandemic has also impacted the vision of people, especially children as they are restricted inside their homes and the online mode of learning and teaching prolonged the screen time.
Ophthalmologists said that the use of gadgets and long hours spent before the computer, laptop or mobile screens is seriously influencing the eyesight of the user and young students are the worst sufferers.
They said children are complaining about multiple eyes-related issues like convergence insufficiency, computer vision syndrome, reflective errors and other eyesight ailments.
“Most of the children we receive in our clinic complain of dryness, itching and watering of eyes,” said Dr ShaziaShafi, Senior Consultant/Surgeon Ophthalmology at Sharp Sight Eye Hospital.
“Some children also come with complaints like headaches and burning of eyes also,” she said.
She said temporary esotropia (squint) is also seen with excessive screen time in young children.
“There are cases of increased refractive errors, especially myopia present in children. Also excessive radiation exposure is in the long run detrimental to retinal health,” she said.
According to her, prolonged near vision work are also causing accommodation problems in kids.
Dr Shafi said people shouldn’t have been exposed to screen for a long duration but unfortunately these are testing times.
“Users including children and adults should follow the 20-20-20 rule. After every 20 minutes they should look at an object 20 feet away or the farthest wall in the room and voluntarily blink more. This will help your fatigued eyes,” she said.
Dr Shafi also suggested that the duration of work and online teaching should be reduced.
“We are going through unprecedented times so we can't put the entire blame on companies or schools. Everyone is doing their but they need to adopt a healthy and relaxed mode of learning and work online,” she said.
1. Lead by example: When kids see their parents using less mobile phones they’ll follow in their footsteps.
2. Children should take online classes before bigger screens like tablets and laptops etc.
3. Let the child sit on a chair and maintain proper posture while the phone or gadget should be mounted on a stand.
4. Keep the blue filter or night mode or reading mode on in the phone.
5. If classes are prolonged use blue block or ARC glasses for added protection.
6. Encourage outdoor activities within safe premises of your home garden.
7. Lastly, let kids be kids. They are already under pressure. Let us not burden them with our expectations.