Kids and phones: Study shows downside of early access - The Tribune India

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Kids and phones

Study shows downside of early access

Kids and phones


PARENTS fretting over children fiddling with their mobile phones have a difficult choice to make on when to allow them to have a mobile phone of their own. There are concerns about cognitive and social habits of users changing as a result of early access to technology. On every parent’s mind is whether the child is getting exposed to risks such as addictive social media, cyber bullying or inappropriate content. A global study on the impact of growing up with smartphones confirms the downside of an early digital embrace. It examined the mental well-being of those aged 18 to 24 years in relation to the age at which they first got their own smartphone or tablet. As per the findings, delaying ownership of such a device could result in better mental health.

The study leverages the fact that the age of first ownership varies from as early as six to 10 years. The report says that suicidal thoughts, aggression, detachment and hallucinations declined most significantly with the older age of first smartphone ownership for females, and to a lesser degree for males. As researchers note, it may be more important to study what children are doing with technology. The issue, thus, is not with smartphones, but what these are used for, which is largely social media. Part of the blame has been apportioned to Big Tech for its reluctance on having guard rails. In 2021, it emerged that Facebook’s own research highlighted mental health issues among teenaged girls, attributed to the Instagram app.

A survey conducted last year found that smartphone use among Indian children in the age group of 10-14 years was seven per cent above the international average. The new findings need careful consideration at all levels, and not just at the parental one.


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