This is indeed a challenging problem for people of all ages. Quite often, we focus on young people but this actually affects everybody who is literate to use a smartphone.
The reason is that the phones we are using nowadays are not just phones — they are very powerful computers, which have a lot of functionalities. So, it is not about whether they are good or bad on their own, it is about how we use them. If you hand over a very powerful computer to inexperienced hands, it can be a force for good as well as bad.
Can we completely get rid of them? I would just like to go back to how things were two decades ago and most adults would remember that we did not have any mobile phones, so how were things managed then? We were able to live happily, in a satisfied manner even though, yes, things were probably a bit slower in some areas. So, we can we live without phones, but will it be a positive move? I don’t think so.
They are a good source of information and education and even when it comes to social media, which is often one of the bigger concerns that people have, it is not all bad. Like any other habit this is something that needs to be supervised and we should follow the rule of moderation.
When we talk about young adults and children, it is very important to supervise them but the supervision can only work if parents set an example. This is why I am very much in favour of ‘mobile-phone-free time’ at home, when there is some time during the day that you do not use any electronic devices, including the television or tablets and have time dedicated to just talking.
Excessive use of smartphones or internet in general does affect the functioning of the brain and a person’s psychological mechanism in some way. What we do know is that it can make you hyperactive and restless and affect your pro-social skills, which is the way you interact with people around you. When you are on the smartphone your brain is working quite fast, even though you might be sitting on the sofa or bed, because you are switching from one thing to another. So your brain gets used to that pace and it becomes a lot more difficult for you to sit calmly and quietly. There is a risk that mindfulness and the ability to enjoy the current moment can get affected in a negative way.
Excessive mobile phone use is also associated with increase in some mental health problems including anxiety related problems and depression.
So, it is important that we as adults make sure to hand over these powerful computers to children at the right age.
– Dr Saqib Latif
Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist , ACPN
(Gulf News, February 23, 2018)