Chinenye Anuforo, [email protected]

As the world becomes increasingly tech-savvy with smartphones becoming an integral part of our lives, one often tends to overlook the other side of the coin, the harmful effects for children.

Initially, a smartphone may appear to be a helpful tool for children when it comes to homework or afterschool activities but on the contrary it might be a source of stress and anxiety for them. Phones loaded with a variety of social media and other apps, and the constant notifications not only distract children but also cause stress among them as they try to cope with contemporaries.

To know more about the impact of smartphones on children Philip Kortum, an assistant professor of psychology at Rice University conducted research titled “You Can Lead a Horse to Water But You Cannot Make Him Learn: Smartphone Use in Higher Education” in 2015.

“Smartphone technology is penetrating world markets and becoming abundant in most school settings. We were interested to see how students with no prior experience using smartphones thought they impacted their education,” said Kortum.

The research revealed that while users initially believed the mobile devices would improve their ability to perform well with homework and tests and ultimately get better grades, the opposite was reported at the end of the study.

Another study from late last year titled ‘Digital Addiction: Increased Loneliness, Anxiety, and Depression’ claimed that smartphone usage can be similar to other types of substance use. “The behavioral addiction of smartphone  use begins forming neurological connections in the brain in ways similar to how opioid addiction is experienced by people taking Oxycontin for pain relief – gradually,” said Erik Peper, Professor of Health Education at San Francisco State University.

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On top of that, addiction to social media technology may actually have a negative effect on real social connections.

In a recent survey of 135 students, researchers found that students who used their phones the most reported higher levels of feeling isolated, lonely, depressed and anxious. They believed the loneliness is partly a consequence of replacing face-to-face interaction with a form of communication where body language and other signals cannot be interpreted.

They also found that the same students almost constantly multitasked while studying, watching other media, eating or attending classes. This constant activity allows little time for bodies and mind relax and regenerate, said Peper, and also results in ‘semi-tasking,’ where people do two or more tasks at the same time — but half as well as they would have if focused on one task at a time.

Not only this, a study published in the journal ‘Preventive Medicine Reports’ in 2018 suggested that too much time spent on gaming, smartphones and watching television is associated with heightened levels and diagnoses of anxiety or depression in children as young as age two.

Even after only one hour of screen time daily, children and teens may begin to have less curiosity, lower self-control, less emotional stability and a greater inability to finish tasks, stated researchers Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell.

In light of the above results and findings, it becomes important for parents to keep a tab on their children’s usage of smartphones and think twice before buying them the device.

•Culled from