NDEMO: Children’s addiction to phones a wake-up call

Friday January 19 2018

While we have elaborate child protection laws, technology makes them irrelevant until they are updated to deal with emerging dangers. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

While we have elaborate child protection laws, technology makes them irrelevant until they are updated to deal with emerging dangers. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By BITANGE NDEMO
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At a recent social event, a mother grabbed a smartphone from her son to force him to eat his food.

The little brat went berserk. He threw tantrums and rolled on the floor, crying loudly. His embarrassed mother had no choice but return the gadget to him. Welcome to children addicted to smartphones.

The good news is that investors, especially the larger ones in Apple, are calling for action over increasing incidences of iPhone addiction.

In their open letter to Apple last week, California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) and Jana Partners, both investors in Apple, urged the company to take action with respect to helping families/children fight addiction on its devices.

The bad news, however, is in the absence of data. We have no clue to what extent the problem exists in any African country.

Consumers have embraced products whose effects on our children we have absolutely no clue.

While we have elaborate child protection laws, technology makes them irrelevant until they are updated to deal with emerging dangers.

A study by the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed some of the repercussions the mobile phones could have on the children’s brain activity.

These include: cancer-causing agents due to the fact that “children absorb more than 60 per cent of the radiation into the brain than adults. And that “their brain’s thinner skin, tissues, and bones allow them to absorb the radiation twice than the grown-ups.”

As a result, the World Health Organisation (WHO) classified cell phone radiation as ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’.

The study noted the discovery by scientists that “just two minutes of the phone call can alter the electoral activity of the kid’s brain for up to an hour.

The radio waves from the mobile penetrate deep into the brain, not just around the ear.

The disturbed brain activity could impair children’s learning ability and other behavioural problems. It could even affect their mood and ability to learn in the classroom if they have used the phone during the break time.”

Even without these scientific claims, there must be concern over children’s reaction when a mobile phone is taken away from them.

Yet we are increasingly using smartphones as a distraction for children or simply for entertainment purpose without knowing where and when to stop.

All of us have at one time received a gibberish text from a friend and a quick apology: “Sorry, my child was playing with the phone!”

Parents are failing in their duties to care for their children. Families, especially the middle class, are resulting to unorthodox means of caring for the young ones.

We need parental education now more than ever before. This need for education is evident in many social and entertaining joints where parents sometimes drink leaving children to take care of themselves by all means available including playing with digital gadgets to keep themselves busy.

In the absence of education, technology providers should take action that can help limit the access of addictive applications on the gadgets. Investors are showing the way that it is not all about the money but the welfare of the people and future generations.

There is no doubt that technology can be as addictive as any drugs. Further, studies have shown that children are more vulnerable to harmful effects of radiation than mature people.

Everybody must, therefore, play some role in protecting children against addiction to devises like the iPhones.

Nick Bilton, a British-American journalist, in his New York Times article of September 10, 2014 about his interview with Steve Jobs wrote the following:

“So, your kids must love the iPad?” I asked Mr. (Steve) Jobs, trying to change the subject. The company’s first tablet was just hitting the shelves. “They haven’t used it,” he told me. “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”

Makers of technology perhaps understand better the effects of technology and hence the reason they limit how much their children can consume. We must therefore, limit how much technology we expose to our children.

This article was first published in the Business Daily.