Columnists

The epidemic of mobile addiction

phone

Use of technology can “have negative repercussions on physical health causing vision problems, hearing loss, and neck strain.” FILE PHOTO | NMG

In one of my columns last year I dealt with the increasing addiction to mobile phones by children. This followed incidences in which children were demanding access to their parents’ mobile phones. I was either wrong or had not observed parents’ behaviour towards the use of mobile phone.

During the recent Christmas and New Year holiday, as many parents took care of their children in the absence of housemaids, I keenly observed the mannerism of many couples.

My conclusion is that mobile addiction in both parents and children has reached an epidemic proportion. It is a matter that we must address now or else it will destroy many aspects of what makes us human, including our ability to communicate.

My survey through casual observation during the festive season revealed a disturbing trend where parents use tablets to pacify children in order to create time for themselves to go through their WhatsApp, Facebook or Twitter messages. Unknown to them, the uncontrollable desire to catch up on social media messages are the long-term effects of technology addiction.

Many parents I observed hardly talked to their children let alone to each other. In essence, technology simply isolated each one of them into their own worlds. They appeared to be keener to “talk” to people who were far away than those that were next to them. This is not natural. In fact, it is akin to “hearing voices,” a phrase that has traditionally meant that one has gone beyond the pale.

This emerging situation is not just a Kenyan problem. It is global phenomenon, which has engendered what are generally referred to as advocates of responsible use of technology. A group of Silicon Valley employees started Digitalresponsibility.org to share with young people the personal and public consequences of technology.

Health experts within the advocacy network say that technology does have a huge impact on users’ physical and mental health. It causes psychological issues such as vanity, expectation of instant gratification, cognitive losses, and even depression.

Besides affecting users' mental health, use of technology can also “have negative repercussions on physical health causing vision problems, hearing loss, and neck strain.”

Research has shown that too little time interacting with other humans leads to serious social problems that disrupt communication skills necessary to maintain good relations with people.

A University of Stanford study shows that pre-teen girls aged between eight to 12 that spend a lot of time-consuming media and attempting to multitask report lower self-esteem and more difficulty socializing compared to their less media-driven peers.

There are multiple ways of beating addiction to technology. There is no one single formula but let me share a few tricks that a number of people have used to successfully limit their addictions.

Virtually everyone I know who has tried to deal with their addictions say self-discipline is vitally important. In self-discipline, one creates their own rules on when to use or not use any technology device.

This can include allowing time to eat, sleep and even talking to each other by switching off all devices. It also helps to put off notifications especially when going to bed, to avoid distractions at night that may alter your sleep patterns.

The same technology device can be used to provide necessary data on its usage as well as help you stay off it as it can be programmed to shut off when it is time to rest.

Some people do not sleep in the same room with their devices to avoid the temptation of using them at odd hours when the brain needs rest.

One of the common complaints is how difficult it is to deal with any form of addiction but those who have gone through such will advise that you start small and ensure you maintain a steady gain towards taking control of your life.

Find something like reading a book or some outdoor activity during idle time. If you cannot plan to occupy your time for most of the time, for sure technology will take control.

Marlo Thomas, an American actress, producer, author, and social activist once said, “Despite our ever-connective technology, neither Skype nor Facebook - not even a telephone call - can come close to the joy of being with loved ones in person.” Let’s create time to spend quality time with loved ones as a foundation for building better communication for human interaction.