Dubai counsellors call on parents and schools to reduce mobile phone use among children
Counsellors warn of mental health impact on young people addicted to smartphones
Counsellors in Dubai are calling on schools and parents to combine in a joint approach to reduce children’s use of mobile devices and cut the impact on their mental health.
Doctors at the Priory Clinic in the UK have backed results from a straw poll on more than 1,000 parents that revealed 44 per cent supported a ban on smartphone use by children under the age of 16.
Of those parents polled, 92 per cent said social media and the internet are having a negative impact on the mental health of their children.
“Many studies have highlighted the various dangerous psychological and medical effects of significant smartphone use, particularly on those using them for more than three hours a day,” said Dr Rasha Bassim, a UAE psychiatrist at the Priory Wellbeing Centre in Dubai.
“Research demonstrates the brain chemistry of young people, who are addicted to smartphones and the internet, can become imbalanced.
“This leads to irritability, increase in emotional distress, broken sleep patterns, isolation and higher levels of anxiety and depression,” she said.
“Children can feel immense peer pressure to have a smartphone and participate in social media if they are not to be excluded from friendship groups and social activities.
“These are all often intrinsically linked to phones.”
In September, a nationwide campaign in France led to banning children under 15 from using their smartphones in school.
The Priory Group poll found that half of parents said cyber-bullying was an issue related to smartphone use by young people, 41 per cent said it was damaging self-esteem and 47 per cent it was reducing physical interactions in families.
A further 43 per cent of those asked said it was having a damaging effect on healthy sleep patterns, and 39 per cent of parent said mobile phone use was leading to the early sexualisation of children.
Almost half of parents said their child worries about their appearance as a result of the internet and social media.
“Children in this age group really only need a basic phone to keep safe and ensure their parents or carers are aware of their movements,” said Dr Bassim.
“With half of teens now feeling addicted to their mobile phones, a consensus between parents and teachers on the appropriate age for the use of smartphones among young people would remove the many burdens that can come with them.”
Tell-tale signs of a child’s phone addiction are irritability, mood swings and reduced social interaction with friends and family.
If children become anxious when unable to send or receive messages, or if they are increasingly tired and lethargic — that call be an indication of smartphone addiction, said Nadia Brooker, a Counselling Psychologist in Dubai.
“Smartphones allow our children to access sites which promote pornography, gambling and violence and allow cyberbullying, with the potential for serious consequences,” she said.
“To develop into strong, healthy and happy individuals, young people need to be encouraged to be active, engage in face-to-face social interaction, and to explore and participate in ‘real life’ situations and activities.”
Parents can consider investing in software to monitor what a child is watching, and when.
Other advice is to limit children to just one social media account and ensure privacy settings are in place and that parents are aware of what they are posting and who they are communicating with.
“Social media can present a highly distorted view of the world with the capability to negatively impact an individual’s confidence, self-esteem and general well-being,” said Ms Brooker.
“It’s vital parents ensure children feel supported and comfortable with their identity and have the confidence to express themselves freely.”
Updated: December 18, 2018 07:58 PM