Children are becoming addicted to social media
ABU DHABI // Children are spending so much time on tablet computers or smartphones that they are becoming addicted to them, according to experts and parents alike.
It is common to see children of all ages playing with electronic gadgets. But Dr Elizabeth Kurian, a specialist psychiatrist at Aster Medical Centre in Sharjah, says excessive use could harm their health and impede their development.
“Many parents approach me because they are worried that their children are addicted to phones and tablets,” she said.
She also said adolescents who use their electronic devices too much are often prone to behavioural problems.
“Teenagers very often get irritated when their gadgets are taken away from them or if their consumption is restricted. Parents complain that their children’s studies are being affected as they spend a lot of time on the gadgets,” she said.
She believed parents should not allow their children to use their devices for more than one hour a day.
“When they are only three or four years old, their communication and social skills might get affected as the quality time that they should be spending with their parents is used playing on the device,” she said.
“Teenagers also need to develop people skills, which they will require later in life.
“When they spend too much time on social media, they might think just liking a picture is enough to build a friendship.
“However, they face problems when they have to communicate directly with someone,” said Dr Kurian.
She also believed that the excessive use of tablets and phones is also contributing to the obesity problem in the country.
“Parents think that these devices help their children to relax – when they really need to go out and get physical exercise. People also tend to eat more and snack on something when they are lazing about,” she said.
Maisaa Saleem, a Canadian project manager, from Abu Dhabi, said that she lets her four-year-old son play on his iPad, but is strict about how long he can use it for.
“I have set the timings and my son knows that he will only get the iPad for an hour on weekdays and a little more than that during the weekend,” she said.
“How much the child uses a gadget depends totally on the parent.”
She has deployed a number of tactics to make sure he willingly stops playing his iPad.
“If he insists that he wants the iPad I just tell him that he can’t go to the zoo if he gets it. Visiting the zoo is his favourite activity and this works,” she said.
She said that one should also keep the iPad out of reach of children and provide them with other activities, like books and toys, to keep them amused.
Official research into the subject of iPad use in children has suggested different conclusions.
A study by the Institute of Education at the University of London revealed that using iPads can improve literacy and numeracy skills in nursery and primary schoolchildren.
While research by the American Academy of Paediatrics believed many children were losing dexterity in their fingers because of overuse of tablets.
Updated: September 4, 2014 04:00 AM