Plugged-in generation in peril

Labiba Zoha

20 June, 2021 12:00 AM printer

A growing number of parents are worried about their offsprings’ mental and physical wellbeing due to overuse of smartphones. Parents who initially introduced their children to different facilities of smartphones like watching online videos or playing games to encourage them to eat or learn alphabets, later realised that they are in a big problem – their children sleepwalked into smartphone addiction.

 “At such a young age, my son is inseparable from screens. We started showing him videos while he would eat, now he wants to watch it for hours on end,” said a mother of a two-year-old venting her frustration.

She said, “At first, I noticed that watching videos on YouTube helped him learn his alphabets and numbers, and we were so glad. But now if we take the screens away, he will throw a tantrum and hit himself.”

Moreover, she continues, “After watching superhero videos, he tries to mimic them by smashing his toys and trying to throw himself off the bed only to hurt himself.’

This sort of concern is not only of one single mother, it resonates all across the country, from the cities to the villages, due to widespread availability of digital gadgets and internet.

Not only children, many youths, even grown-ups are under the spell of their smartphones.

Father of a 21-year-old who studies at a university staying in a mess, said, “Last year I was informed that my son didn’t appear for an exam in semester final. That means he missed the whole year and had to take readmission. After inquiring how he missed the exam of a particular subject, I was shocked to know that he played online games late into the night before the exam day, and woke up too late to go to exam hall.”

 “Then the Covid-19 pandemic struck and put the education on hold. I brought him home from the mess, but failed to detach him from his mobile phone,” he said adding that “It breaks my heart to see how my ever-smiling son has turned ever-gloomy, not talking, not reading anything, but mostly staying glued to the phone, on facebook and watching childish things on youtube.”

These are all but a few examples of how the so-called socialmedia sites are taking a heavy toll on our lives, especially on todays’ youth. There are also instances of youths who committed suicide under the influence of online games. Recently a youth killed himself in Chandpur after failing to get money from his mother to buy internet package.

The prolonged closure of education institutions due to Covid-19 has further fueled the smartphone addiction among children and youths.

The pandemic has paved the way for smartphones to completely infiltrate into children’s lives. From waking up to doing online classes, playing video games in the evening or watching videos before bed; teenagers are submerged in their electronic gadgets.

Farid Ahmad, Assistant Professor, Institute of Appropriate Technology, BUET said, “Our children are doing online classes. Their habit of using gadgets is being reinforced by the pandemic.”

Considering the grave consequences of the younger generation’s smartphone addiction, two volunteer organizations named as Information System Audit and Control Association (ISCA) and Cyber Crime Awareness Foundation has recently called for banning harmful online games like PUBG and Free Fire.

Experts are of the view that only banning of some games and sites is not enough, parents should monitor their children’s phone times and perhaps content on social media such as Facebook and Instagram. They should encourage children to put their devices away during social gatherings, while doing schoolwork and practice going to bed without their phones and its harmful blue light.

Moreover, according to mental health experts, parents should encourage their children and young adults to replace their smart device time with healthier activities such as reading, exercise, meditating or practicing mindfulness.

Lastly, they think that when a whole generation is getting derailed in the digital world, the authorities concerned cannot just look on and do nothing.