COVID Pandemic Is Causing Addiction and Cognitive Stunting in Children

Boy using a mobile phone.

Children do not have many options for playing outside and naturally, many of them are spending more time streaming videos or dabbling with their mobile devices. (Image: Prudencio Alvarez via Dreamstime)

The COVID pandemic has brought unprecedented changes in human life. People are now being compelled to spend more time at home than ever before, regardless of their jobs and locations. While the COVID pandemic has led to several complications in life, children are faring worse than adults.

Children do not have many options for playing outside and naturally, many of them are spending more time streaming videos or dabbling with their mobile devices because of the COVID pandemic. Another reason children are spending more time with smartphones and laptops is the continuation of virtual classes. The repeating waves of the killer virus have taken a toll on the regular schooling system, forcing students to attend classes virtually.

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While spending a lot of time with mobile devices can hamper studying, experts have cautioned of other long-term hazards, asking parents to limit the time their children spend with such devices. A section of children become addicted to online gaming while spending long hours indoors. Others are now falling to the lure of the metaverse or virtual worlds, popularized by social media platforms such as TikTok. 

During COVID pandemic lockdowns, children tend to spend too much time on electronic devices

Many parents do not think much about their children spending a long time with their smartphones and laptops during the COVID pandemic lockdowns. In fact, they find it somewhat relieving that children stay engaged and they can mind their own chores without interruptions.

While spending a lot of time with mobile devices during COVID pandemic lockdowns can hamper studying, experts have cautioned of other long-term hazards.
While spending a lot of time with mobile devices can hamper studying, experts have cautioned of other long-term hazards. (Image: Kirill Polovnoy via Dreamstime)

Online and virtual worlds can be detrimental

However, psychologists and mental health experts say allowing this to continue may be detrimental. The children find the lure of such online and virtual worlds alluring. They can create fancy avatars, play games, and indulge in acts that they cannot do easily in the real world. 

If children spend several hours glued to their mobile devices exploring the virtual world, they will find it hard to stay grounded, say psychologists.

Aric Sigman, associated with the Royal Society of Medicine and the British Psychological Society, says excess screen time “is the very thing impeding the development of the abilities that parents are so eager to foster through the tablets. The ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people’s attitudes and communicate with them, to build a large vocabulary — all those abilities are harmed.”

A balance is required

Children need a balance between spending time online and learning from their surroundings. The latter is necessary and cannot be taught by online apps and so-called metaverse models. In their tender years, children need specific stimuli from their environments and these help the neural networks in the brains grow well.

Child working on a laptop.
Children need a balance between spending time online and learning from their surroundings. (Image: Chernetskaya via Dreamstime)

In the real world, there is a fair amount of analysis and interaction involved. Children see, hear, and analyze a lot of things, and understanding takes place accordingly. When they use a smartphone or laptop, these devices do much of the analysis and their brain does not have to work much. This, in the future, can make them lazy and reliant on such devices for most needs.

The importance of human-to-human interactions will always remain. Using artificial intelligence and applications can work partially and these have side effects. The use of mobile devices from a young age may also become self-centric and their emotional quotient will go down. They can access everything at their fingertips when using these devices. So its overuse will make them develop a mindset to treat the real world similarly. 

However, it is not necessary to keep mobile devices away from your children. There are advantages to using these devices and technologies, for sure. However, ensure that your children spend a limited amount of time with these devices so they do not get addicted to the virtual world. 

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