Raise awareness of environmental health issues in order to better protect our children and future generations.

14 May 2016

An Addiction Turns Deadly

An addiction turns deadly
by Rakesh Kumar, thestatesman.com,
12 May 2016

Pooja Mehra (name changed), a bank employee and mother of a three-year-old daughter, knows the easiest way to keep her little girl engaged. Whenever her daughter cries, she quickly hands her mobile phone to her. The child is soon happy watching some cartoon clips, songs or funny video. Mehra accedes this is not in the child's best interest but remains the most effective way to keep one's kid entertained.

This is not the story of one Pooja Mehra, but lakhs of such parents, mainly in urban India, who have made their kids dependent, or rather, over dependent on these gadgets. Take another example of a couple, who boarded a Bangalore- bound flight with two teenaged kids. As soon as they settled in, the parents got busy on their mobile phones. And the children followed suit. After the flight took off, the boy started playing games on his tablet, which ended only when the plane prepared for landing.

The two cases highlight to what extent one is not just dependent but addicted to these gadgets. Be it young or older, boys or girls, these electronic devices have infiltered everyone's lives. Being exposed to them at a very young age, thanks to their parents, a major impact is increasingly being felt by young children. Pooja admitted that she introduced her daughter to the online world at the age of 11 months and by the age of three she deftly handled mobile phones.

As they grow up, many complications await these children. They stop mingling with people, enjoying instead the virtual world. Eye problems, starting with vision, are common among them. Since these devices give them an unlimited access to the world of Internet and games, they are exposed to pornography too. "One must have seen many parents giving their mobiles or tablet to placate their kids. Little do they know they are introducing them to many disease and deficiency," said Dr Arti Anand, senior clinical psychologist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. "Since gadgets provide one-way interaction, it affects the normal learning communication, which happens while talking to parents as well as other family members." Several cases have also been reported on youngsters walking on the road engrossed in their phones being involved in accidents, often fatal.

India has the world's second highest mobile phone users -- more than one billion. According to a survey conducted by a Mumbai-based hospital, 79 per cent of the population in the age group of 18-44 years are holding their cell phones almost all the time. "Even though I don't want to, I still check my mobile phone several times in an hour," said Ritesh Kumar, a medical college aspirant. "I always have a power bank ready in my pocket. My Internet pack is always up-to-date. I confess, it is hard to sleep without checking mobile."

This shift of behaviour is causing problems in family dynamics too, said Sanjana Sharaf, a psychologist from Max Hospital, Gurgaon, "There are many instances, when these kids use mobile phones to communicate with another family member under the same roof or at the dinner table," she added. "For adolescents, it impacts their lives -- it disturbs the sleep pattern, creates psychometric problems and mood disorders to name a few. You must have seen these kids, who keep awake the whole night and have problem waking up in the morning for school."

The problem is not limited to mental state but excessive usage of these devices cause several major physical complications. Due to over-usage of electronic devices, the hospital survey report suggests, around 50 per cent of Indian children are prone to spinal problems. One rests the chin on the chest to look at the phone and this stretches the spinal cord and brain stem. "This slouching position causes discomfort to their back and spine, even affecting their posture," said physiotherapist Sadiya Vanjara. "Swiping continuously on a screen obviously does not give them the required dexterity in the fingers or arm muscles. Further, the limited or non-existent outdoor activity robs them of the optimum Vitamin and Calcium levels."

Meanwhile, makers of electronic gadgets are striving to make one that is fit for kids only. In fact, several companies have introduced products targeting the young. Most of these devices are priced under Rs 10,000 and have specifications for usage by children. These gadgets come with child-friendly designs, including scratch-proof screen, rounded corners and impact-resistant body to withstand the pounding they are destined to face.

As mobile phone penetration deepens -- a research highlights that by 2017, every third person will own a smartphone -- one dreads to think of toll it would take on the children, both physically and mentally.

My comment, submitted 14 May, seems not to have been accepted:

"Children who begin using smartphones or tablets from a very young age risk being afflicted with serious health problems by the time they are young adults, including a greater probability of developing a brain tumor or a neurodegenerative state resembling pre-Alzheimer's. In his book, "How Diseases are Born" (available only in French), Prof. Dominique Belpomme, an oncologist and one of the leading European researchers investigating the clinico-biological effects of exposure to the microwave radiofrequency radiation (EMF) emitted by wireless technology, writes about teenagers he has seen, who from a very young age have abused cell phones (several hours a day) or computers with Wi-Fi, and present a state close to Alzheimer's. Please view this 3-minute video presented by Dr. Martin Blank announcing the 2015 International EMF Scientist Appeal, now signed by 220 scientists from 41 nations (including 12 scientists from India) who have published peer-reviewed papers on the biological effects of EMF. Dr. Blank has had over 30 years of experience conducting EMF research at Columbia University. In his own words, Dr. Blank gives a compelling explanation of the major health crisis we are facing due to increasing levels of environmental pollution from growing and expanding EMF sources. https://emfscientist.org/ "

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