How to Address the Threat of Social Media and Internet Addiction for Children
How to Address the Threat of Social Media and Internet Addiction for Children

In earlier times, when having a telephone at home was not common, most people either made phone calls from telephone booths or wrote letters to inquire about the well-being of their distant relatives. Then came the era of mobile phones, and the world started fitting into the palm of our hands. However, the advent of smartphones has revolutionized people's lives, with social media platforms taking the place of phone calls and letters. Today, in this age of technology, social media has become an integral part of our lives.

Undoubtedly, the internet revolution has made our lives much easier, but its drawbacks are also significant. The virtual world has become so captivating that once someone gets entangled in it, breaking free becomes extremely difficult. During the COVID-19 pandemic, social media platforms seemed nothing less than a blessing as they kept people connected when the entire world was confined to their homes. However, the habit of creating and watching reels and other social media content is gradually turning into an addiction, primarily affecting children and youth. Consequently, along with the waste of time, mental health issues such as irritability, depression, restlessness, and anger are on the rise.

The question arises: what is the allure in these reels that not only captivates children but also prevents adults from restraining themselves?

Excess Dopamine Production:
Social media creates a virtual world where everything appears exceptionally cheerful and beautiful. Watching reels on the internet leads to an increased production of dopamine, the happy hormone, making us feel good. However, indulging in this habit for extended periods leads to a loss of time awareness, with people spending hours watching reels.

Obsession with Likes:
Likes and comments received on social media posts deeply impact our minds. Positive feedback gives us the illusion of being liked and accepted by others. To receive positive feedback, people invest a significant amount of time and energy in creating reels.

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO):
Every day, new trends emerge on the internet, making it essential for social media users to follow them to avoid the fear of missing out. This fear, also known as FOMO, compels individuals to stay updated with the latest trends, or else they feel left behind.

Escapism from Reality:
In today's busy world, everyone is stressed to some extent. Watching reels or spending time on social media provides a temporary escape from that stress. However, gradually, it becomes an addiction, and people start wasting hours on social media, neglecting their real-life responsibilities.

Why is this problem becoming severe?
Statistics indicate that the habit of staying active on social media for hours is becoming a serious problem globally. Various studies show that approximately 22% of children and adolescents in India spend six hours or more on the internet daily. According to a national survey, in Maharashtra, 60% of children aged 9 to 17 spend three to six hours daily on social media.

In the United States, nearly 40% of children have fallen into the grip of social media addiction. Mental health experts are concerned about these figures because social media addiction is exacerbating issues like depression and loneliness among children, which were already heightened by the online schooling during the pandemic.

Although online education was necessary during the pandemic, it inadvertently increased screen time for children. As a result, children are experiencing unexpected physical symptoms such as headaches, backaches, or neck pain at a young age.

It is true that social media brings the world's hustle and bustle right to our fingertips. However, while one side of the coin presents the convenience, the other side exacerbates the need for relief. The addiction to social media not only interferes with the mental and physical health of children but also affects their overall development negatively.

How to tackle this issue?
Be a Role Model:

The atmosphere at home has a profound impact on children. What adults do at home, children learn from them. Instead of showing strictness in using phones, adults should themselves use them wisely.

Phone-Free Family Time:
Establish a rule of having family meals or conversations without the use of phones. This will provide children with some phone-free time where they can learn to enjoy quality time with family without distractions.

Limit Screen Time:
While it may not be possible to completely eliminate phones from children's lives, their screen time at home can be limited. Set rules regarding phone usage at home and adhere to them yourself.

Establish Communication:
Good parenting is not just about providing all comforts to children. It also requires creating a conducive family environment and fostering friendly behavior. Show interest in children's lives, engage in activities they enjoy, and be available to them emotionally. This will make it easier for them to share their thoughts with you and refrain from turning to the internet during times of distress.

Seek Professional Help:
Our society has not yet taken mental health issues seriously. However, it is true that internet addiction can give rise to various mental disorders. If you feel that your child is affected by this addiction, seek advice from a good mental health professional.

Encourage Hobbies:
The biggest drawback of the internet is that now children hesitate to go out and play, preferring to watch reels instead. To prevent this, enroll children in hobby classes such as dance, painting, swimming, or cricket according to their interests. This will not only increase their physical activity but also keep their minds sharp.

In conclusion, the addiction to social media among children and adolescents is a growing concern that needs to be addressed promptly. While social media has its benefits, excessive usage can lead to various mental and physical health issues. It is crucial for parents and society as a whole to take measures to curb this addiction and ensure the overall well-being and development of children.

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