Parents support 'ban' on smartphones for children - Lebanon news - أخبار لبنان

Parents support ‘ban’ on smartphones for children

Parents support ‘ban’ on smartphones for children

92 per cent of them believing that social media and the Internet have a negative impact on the mental health of young people.

A majority of parents want a ban on smartphones as they believe such devices have a negative impact on the mental health of children under 16.

A study, which was conducted by Atomik Research among 1,002 parents of 10- to 18-year-olds in May this year, showed that almost half (44 per cent) of parents would support a ban on smartphones for under-16s, with a staggering 

92 per cent of them believing that social media and the Internet have a negative impact on the mental health of young people.

The research was commissioned by Priory Group.

Parents and schools ‘could make pacts’ whereby children aren’t bought smartphones, said a Priory psychiatrist. Following in the footsteps of France, which recently banned children aged 15 and below from using smartphones in school, UAE psychiatrist Dr Rasha Bassim, from Priory Wellbeing Centre in Dubai, said parents and schools in the region could work together and introduce similar measures.

“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,” she said.

“Findings demonstrate that the brain chemistry of young people addicted to smartphones and the Internet may become imbalanced, leading to irritability, increase in emotional distress, broken sleep patterns, isolation and higher levels of anxiety and depression,” she added.

“Yet, children and young people today can feel immense peer pressure to have a smartphone and participate in social media so as not to be excluded from key aspects of their day-to-to-day lives, such as friendship groups, discussions and social activities – all of which are now often intrinsically linked to phones in some way.”

Dr Bassim said: “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. 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 would remove the many burdens that can come with them. These include the constant need to check each other’s status, monitor likes and followers, and – most worrying of all – the pressure to digitally enhance photos of themselves.”

“I know of some schools in Dubai which, like in France, have already banned the use of phones during the school day, which is a significant step in the right direction. However, there is a strong case for going further and banning children from having smartphones altogether in order to eliminate the negative impacts we now know they can have,” she said.

Dr Ramsey Mustafa Al Omari, paediatric and neonatal consultant, Canadian Specialist Hospital, said a teenager spending on average more than five hours a day in front of a screen (TV, computer, mobile) can affect him in different ways.

“Prolonged screen time promotes a sedentary life and unhealthy eating habits, which result in gaining weight and obesity and, in the long run, lead to more severe life-threatening conditions (diabetes, raised blood pressure),” he said.

“It will affect sleep. In the case of teenagers, they will still send on average 34 text messages after lying down in their beds to sleep,” he said.

From a psychological point of view, a mobile device will give instant gratification to a child while watching TV, and phones are as addictive as caffeine for children and young adults. “Overuse causes narrowing of the blood vessels in the eyes,” Dr Al Omari added.

Nadia Brooker, a counselling psychologist at Priory Wellbeing Centre, believes the overuse of mobile phones can have long-term repercussions on a child’s development.

“We are constantly telling our children not to speak to strangers and to always let us know where they are, and numerous laws are in place here to protect them. Yet, smartphones allow our children to access sites that promote pornography, gambling and violence and allow cyberbullying, with the potential for serious consequences,” she said.

“In order to develop into strong, healthy and happy individuals – both physically and mentally – young people need to be encouraged to be active, engage in face-to-face social interaction, and explore and participate in ‘real-life’ situations and activities.”

“Social media in particular can present a highly distorted view of the world and has the capability to negatively impact an individual’s confidence, self-esteem and general wellbeing,” Brooker said.

Asma Ali Zain

Associated with KT for 15 years. Covers health issues, Pakistan community, human interest stories as well as general topics for daily news or features.

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