Smartphone addiction harms children’s mental health
- By Enkhnaranjav Tumurbaatar -
- Apr 22,2022
A two-year-old boy picks up his mother’s cell phone and masterfully uses it. A toddler looks at pictures and cartoons on a smartphone and puts it in her mouth. A five-year-old boy happily brags about his cell phone. This is a common scene we see in modern families today. Instead of spending time with their children, most parents are thinking of their own comfort and giving their children a phone to play with. As a result, many children are becoming addicted to screens and spending too much time on it, which poses risks of illnesses and mental health problems.
Addiction is common among young children due to the excessive use of electronic devices, which affects their behavior and lifestyle. As a result, social and family relations deteriorate and medical care is needed, as claimed by experts.
In addition to health problems, it can also affect their personal development. A child addicted to a mobile phone often uses the phone even when eating, rarely talks or plays with others, and prefers to be alone and use the phone. This further affects his or her social relations and can lead to academic delays, loss of friends, constant drowsiness, and stress. A growing number of children are showing signs of mental problems.
Deputy Head of the National Center for Mental Health B.Bayarmaa said that in the 2000s, three to four children used to come to the center a year to get treated, but in recent years, 90 to 100 children are coming for mental health care services. She also said that internet and technology addiction is due to the unavoidable use of electronic devices for online learning.
“The number of inpatient children was three to four in the early 2000s, but today, it is reaching 90 to 100. About 90 to 98 percent of them are boys. Most children aged 13 to 15 are hospitalized. With the transition to e-learning, children are using smartphones for longer periods. Originally, it was intended only for online classes, but children are learning to use mobile phones for other purposes and becoming more and more attracted to various applications, such as Tik Tok and so on,” she said.
Mother of three boys M.Enkhjargal said, “Everyone in my family has their own smartphones like everyone else. Our youngest son, who is eight years old, was hospitalized last autumn because he kept playing on his phone, struggling with his studies, and suffering from nervous exhaustion. He was hospitalized and was not allowed to play on a smartphone. Now, he doesn’t have a smartphone. In fact, playing on the phone too much has a very negative effect on children’s mentality and upbringing. Besides my eight-year-old boy, my older boy also loves to play. When he picks up the phone, he becomes completely unaware of what’s going on in the house and even postpones his studies and gets cut off from the rest of the world. In general, children should stay as far away as possible from phones and parents pay attention to this.”
Another mother said, “My daughter is six years old. She will go to school next year. We buy her a smartphone, but she plays with other people’s phones. She plays for three or four hours a day even under control. She learned to use it on her own. She surfs the internet, watches cartoons, and plays games. She doesn’t even listen to the person next to her and focuses all her attention on the phone while using it. In fact, I’ve heard that smartphones are bad for children’s health, so I’m very worried and try not to allow her to use the phone. However, she doesn’t listen to me.”
Many parents nowadays prefer to give their children phones because they don’t know how to spend their time with their children or because they are busy. It is also unfortunate that parents don’t try to actually stop children from using the phone, except by scolding them a few times.
Due to excessive use of smartphones, children are suffering from poor eyesight, reduced attention ability, and weakened immune systems. Cell phone radiation has a negative effect on health too. Swedish researcher Lennart Harrell found that using a cell phone close to the ear increases the risk of brain cancer. High-frequency electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones and cordless phones poses this risk, he explained. Cell phones are especially harmful to children because their bodies are more metabolically active than those of adults, they are fragile, their bones are thinner, and their cells divide more rapidly. The researcher believes that children’s brains are thinner than those of adults, so they can be more easily penetrated by electromagnetic radiation and warn parents to protect their children from this risk. Studies have shown that cell phone radiation also has a negative effect on children’s brain cell development.
Apparently, children are affected when mothers use or talk on the phone while they are breastfeeding or holding their baby on their lap.
Harrell studied 1,380 people, including people with brain cancer and healthy people. He found that people who use mobile phones more are at higher risk of brain cancer. People who have used a cordless phone for 20 to 25 years are twice as likely to be diagnosed with cancer compared to those who have recently used a cell phone or cordless phone, he said. People who have used a cordless phone for more than 25 years are three times more likely to have cancer symptoms.
It was reported that because children’s heads are small and their skulls are thin, they absorb and receive 10 times more high-frequency electromagnetic radiation than adults. Researchers found that people who started to regularly use a mobile phone before the age of 20 can experience side effects on their brain function, have irregular heart function, and experience depression and stress.
While it is good for a child to have tools for communication, it is not wise to spend too much time on smartphones. Many countries around the world restrict the use of mobile phones by children due to its various harmful effects.
There are many international experiences that restrict smartphones in the school environment. For example, in Kariya city in Aichi Prefecture, Japan, all primary and secondary school students are prohibited from using smartphones from 9:00 p.m. In the city, parents take away their children’s cell phones after 9:00 p.m. and are required to disconnect devices connected to the internet. This seems to have paid off as students’ social activism has improved and there has been a sharp increase in academic achievement. But most importantly, teachers are giving homework that doesn’t require too much internet use.
New York City, an intellectual center with more than 1.1 million students from around the world, has banned cell phones in schools. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the use of mobile phones had increased along with the increase in social anxiety. As a result, the city decided to ban the use of smartphones only in schools and on campuses. In other words, without a cell phone-based curriculum, students only use their phones to make calls to others. Most recently, the US cities of Virginia and Maryland have introduced a ban on smartphones in school environments. As a result, students stopped chatting and going on social networks during school hours and became less exposed to criminal activities.
The Spanish province of Castile-La Mancha has banned the use of mobile phones in school environments as well. Ninety-five percent of the province’s 14 to 32-year-olds used to have a cell phone and 67 percent had smartphones, according to a survey. After the restriction, the total number of mobile phone users did not decrease, but the number of smartphone users had dropped to 54 percent. Prior to this ban, students had reportedly almost stopped using notebooks and did not take notes even if they had homework or exams the next day. In some subjects, such as geography, students recorded the lesson and searched the internet to easily find their homework. Due to this, their academic performance dropped and many were failing their courses, which prompted the provincial administration to make such a decision.
The Scottish Teachers’ Association has called on teachers to work with parents to ban cell phones during school hours. The Scottish government is working to make this an education policy, believing that mobile phones can cause cyber-violence, distract students, and have a negative impact on their health.
In several countries, including China, Japan, South Korea, and the USA, many children are addicted to the internet, smartphones, and devices, and psychiatric hospitals have even opened sections for smartphone addicts. In other words, smartphone addiction is becoming a new medical field in these countries. The internet is the main source of addiction to smartphones and tablets.
The world criticizes China for controlling the use of the internet and restricting human rights. China’s horrific history of internet addiction began in 2002 and shocked many people. In 2002, a fire in an unregistered internet cafe in China killed 25 people who had been playing online games for days. Shortly afterward, a boy died after playing “The Legend of Mir 2” game for 20 hours straight and then, two children committed suicide after losing an online game, causing a train crash in Chongqing. Children even killed their parents for restricting their internet use in Chongqing and Tianjin. After playing “World of Warcraft” for 36 hours, a 13-year-old jumped off from the roof of a 24-story building by mimicking the game’s characters.
Smartphones are very important in our lives today. However, the countries mentioned above have begun to recognize the dangers it poses and prohibit children from using smartphones in the school environment. The excessive use of smartphones can slow your child’s development and is harmful to their health. Medical researchers say that everyone, not only children, should minimize their use of smartphones.