Digital dependency

Monday Musing

[ Ranjit Sinha ]

Vice President of India M Venkaiah Naidu, who was on a three-day visit to Arunachal Pradesh, desperately felt the need for generating awareness among the children and young adults against “constant use of digital devices and overdependence on the internet as it will kill creativity and original thinking.’

The VP expressed his wish that the achievers of the state, including writers and educators, would come to the fore and make the youngsters aware of the need to refrain from getting addicted to digital devices like mobile phones.

In a country like India, with the second largest number of internet users in the world, digital device addiction among children, particularly during the lockdown, period is a cause for concern.

Many institutes and prominent organizations across the world conducted several studies/surveys on children’s addiction to electronic gadgets during the lockdown period. Here, I feel, it is important to display a portion of the study/survey conducted by a Jaipur-based children’s hospital. It said: “65 percent of the children became addicted to electronic devices, while 50 percent of them couldn’t stay away from their gadgets for even half an hour.” What a horrible situation! Isn’t it? A senior professor of that children’s hospital, Dr Ashok Gupta, who guided the study team, said: “Children were found to be flying into a fit of rage, uncontrollable crying, disobedience to their parents, and also displayed irritable behavioural pattern if they were told to lay off their electronic devices.”

While this piece is in progress, a pertinent thought keeps hovering over my mind. A few months ago, I had asked my 50+ younger brother, a cancer patient, not to venture out frequently during these Covid days if the situation is not demanding. I advised him to take his medicines regularly and use a smartphone to keep his mind away from ugly thoughts about the end result of being with cancerous cells. Is he using the smartphone just for killing time, or is he learning something from the digital world? What would be the learning materials on the internet for a patient, I wonder.

Even though aged people of our country do not share much space in the digital world, we can’t come to the conclusion that all the middle-aged and elderly people who are using digital devices are not addicted to the internet world.

If you ask a hundred people of above 50 years of age in your locality about their exact sleeping time at night, I am damn sure that you will find at least four to five people among them who do not sleep by midnight and are in the world of the internet. It is another question whether it is because of insomnia, or if the insomnia is the result of excessive use of electronic device during late night, which kills the valuable hours of night rest.

Awareness programmes on government schemes, which are being conducted everywhere in the state, is a welcome step. But awareness programmes to keep the youngsters away from getting addicted to digital devices like mobile phones will be a futile exercise, unless and until the parents and guardians of children and young people realize the harmful effects of excessive use of the internet.

As the saying goes, Charity begins at home. Let the parents own the responsibility of making the future of their children bright.