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Posted at: Sep 8, 2018, 1:22 AM; last updated: Sep 8, 2018, 1:22 AM (IST)

What is it all about

What is it all about
istock

Dr Monika Singh

Excessive screen indulgence is leading to a major psychological and psychiatric problem of screen dependency disorder (SDD), especially among children. The disorder is an excessive use of social media, dependency and a compulsive urge to attend to screen activities like video games, watching videos during day/ night. Screen dependency disorder is an uncontrollable need and habit to indulge in social media activities. Video games, TV shows, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Netflix, cartoons, besides porns are some of the sites children are hooked to. At times children may pose as adults and watch content inappropriate for their age. Here’s looking at the disorder:

How it starts

  • Early exposure to mobile phones, tablets, watching parents use cell phone and selfie culture is contributing to the increasing cases of disorder. 
  • It usually starts by imitation behaviour when children watch adults at home using mobile phones.
  • A child learns how to demand phone by throwing a tantrum, and when easily given by parents to keep the child calm and busy. 
  • Often, it is used as a tool to distract the child and keep him occupied while feeding him/her. 
Symptoms 

  • Fall in grades and academic performance.
  • Inability to concentrate but not when on screen.
  • Restlessness. 
  • Disturbed sleep and insomnia.
  • Behavioural problems like irritability, anxiety, low mood, depression, aggressiveness, violent behaviour, tantrums, social aloofness, low self-esteem, weight gain and weight loss.
What can be done

  • Under 18 months: Zero exposure time to screen activities. Avoid giving laptop or television to small children.
  • 18 months-five years: Regulate time, maximum usage to one hour, that too spread over each day.
  • Parent needs to stay and participate with the child.
  • Assess that the child’s socialising skills are not getting compromised.
Some quick tips

  • Make rules regarding the use of gadgets. Explain consequences of excessive use. Follow the rules yourself.
  • Build rapport with children. Help them develop a sense of responsibility by involving them in house work.
  • Make them join some physical activity or hobby class.
  • In case of symptoms like severe anger, violent behaviour, aloofness, anxiety and depression, go for counselling and medication, if needed.
        — The writer is a Chandigarh-based psychologist

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