What goes on in the child's brain when they are addicted to mobiles ?
Mobile addiction can be divided into parts based on the mechanism activated in the brain – gaming and video.
In the early stage we all know that a newborn at birth has most of the brain cells that we will have for our entire life, but relatively little of the connections, circuits among the different cells. What happens very, very rapidly is that the brain is building connections, its building synapses (connections). These connections form the foundation on which newer connections are added later on. The brain is highly neuroplastic in the first few years of life and as we grow it becomes more and more difficult to change the way we think.
Hence when we give them the smart phone ,it ends up creating shortcuts in the mind rather than learning through experience and reasoning .We all agree in principle that this is the most essential and effective way to gain knowledge and social skills. Let me give you an example when we see a particular cartoon, movie or a Sitcom, the story may have a variable impact to our mind depending on our choice of subject. The reason behind this is that whatever that has been fed in our mind is questioned by our parietal and frontal lobe (part of the brain responsible for reasoning) before it enters into our belief system.
Also these inputs are further matched with our experiences of similar situations in our life. Hence at times some of the scenes actually evokes strong emotions while other do not .But overall this process makes our experience enjoyable or boring depending on the final outcome. With our logical reasoning we are able to restrict the experience to the movie.But for a child it may have detrimental effect on the neural pathways. Rather than experiencing the real life situation the child tends to form images and Mirror neurons (replica neural pathways –a property of our neurons) rather than going through the conventional reasoning and experience. This makes it actually easier for the mind to process.
Our neural circuits like most of the nature have a tendency to move into automation and are more at ease in the process of automation. Do not get me wrong, automation are the reasons you can drive the car or do multitasking but if formed at very early age can be damaging .our brain becomes lazy and tends to function more in automation perceived from what they see. Another important finding is that our brain understands and stores information by forming images and the emotions related if any.Then newer experiences forms newer images and the brain tries to relate them and stores the new information and so on . By bypassing the process of reasoning and experiencing it may reduce the job of the brain for the time being but in the long run due to these weakened neural pathways, they will create improper social behavior and defective learning.The newer images will be actually reinforced on the images perceived by the sitcom or video rather than formed by the process of experience and learning.
How severe is this problem, and what could be the long-term effects? I will try to give you some idea about this.
Infants Social Interaction.
Let us try to understand what happens to the numerous synapses with which the neonate is born and how the changes take place. As with our experience the human brain changes and increase in size. This is also known as neuroplasticity. The human brain triples in size in the first 2 years of life. The voice of the mother, her touch all result in forming extensive connections in the brain and lay down the platform for social interactions in the future. But too much of screen time for children results in hampering of this important lessons of early life.The child looks for social interactions and creates images based on their experience and observations. Although they are not so accurate but they form the foundation for reinforcing them by future learning experience. Their neural pathways change and different ones are created. This greatly affects the child in future to develop deep personal bonds, their self-belief and at times their attention
Foundations for first Addiction
Advances in technology have given mankind immense powers to create, recreate and find simpler solutions to what seemed very difficult to our forefathers. This has created many things accessible which were a distant dream, a couple of decades ago. They are no more a luxury for a privileged few but a necessity for common man. Tasks which seemed to take ages to accomplish have become accessible at a click of a button. The smart phone and tablets make the kids more prone to self-doubt, impulsive and lack of control which lead to addictive behaviors. The reward circuit especially in gaming creates addictive behaviors leading to excessive craving and greedy.Accomplishing seemingly difficult task at the click of a button or buying few extra lives is the lesson a child learns which he will mimic in real life situation. The way these games are designed they create enough stress for the children to be interested with easier options always accessible.
If someone is obsessed with anything the moment you take it away from them they will definitely react .This does not imply only to kid but you will also see this with adults. It’s become a habit or I may say fashion whenever we see a child getting bored or having a tantrum parents tend to give them the smart phone or tablet as an act of soothing them down. Although in the near future it may release the tension but In the long run interferes with the natural mechanism of self-regulation .These lessons are of great importance specially in future to deal with the disparity and struggle of life which everyone of us have had to face.
Almost a decade ago it was a common fact that people watched television when they were sleep deprived. Although the numbers were not great but it was one of the measures to kill time if you didn’t get sleep. But now with advent of smart phones it has almost become a habit for many young adults to sleep with their smart phone or tablets. What it does that light from the screen suppresses the hormone melatonin which activates the Reticular activating system(RAS) of the mid brain giving the message to the brain that it is daytime. This affects the circadian rhythms and cause sleep deprivation. What seemed as measure to kill time when you are sleep deprived has become the cause of sleep deprivation. There are many parents who do not supervise their kids and allow them to use gadgets when they are sleeping. It is obvious that children who are sleep deprived will have trouble with their concentration and have effects on their grade
Muted Learning skills
I think most of the parents including me would agree that smart phone and tablets distract the kids and decrease their ability to focus and concentrate in their studies. Too much of visual stimulation and rapid pictorial image changes create very little time for the child to understand and analyse the situation. It needs to be remembered these are crucial years of learning and would greatly affect their sensorimotor and visual motor skills. These are important in learning maths, science or anything to do with logical reasoning and analyzing. Asking questions is the first step to learning .If everything is spoon fed then the quest to learn simply dries out.
However there are games which actually increase their attention skills but the child is inclined to learning more with motion pictures and actually finds it difficult to read a book attentively because of the defective neural pathways. It is also found that most of the video and online games also limit kids’ budding creativity and imaginations and slow their motor and optical sensory development.
Poor self Introspection
A fact that 60 to 70 per cent of our interaction is nonverbal (i.e through facial expression, eye movements, body language).All this creates a gap in learning of essential social skills. These are all fundamental to establishing human relationships. And they’re all missing with most forms of modern technology. Kids are spending so much time communicating through technology that they’re not developing basic communication skills that humans have used since forever. Communication is not just about words but also about expression and emotions. It is impossible for anyone to communicate their feelings merely by emoticons and have the same effect of one to one communication with the individual.If the communications skills are poor how does one expect to be empathetic to any one.
Susceptible to psychological trauma.
Once again poor communication skills lead to isolation and frustration for any individual. This makes the child susceptible to cyber bullying which has become a reality in today’s world. Access to too much information which is not age appropriate gives rise to curiosity in young children about their physicality and body changes. Childhood depression, anxiety attention deficit disorder are the some of the unwanted gifts of the twenty first century which we need to protect our children from.
Too much time spends in front of the screen leads to lack of movement and physical exercise. If Children do not play in the playground, they only end up increasing their weight. Childhood obesity is not only due to the lack of activity but also due to the isolation and lack of communication skills which leads to overeating (a sign of Depression).Obesity in childhood is a precursor for early diabetic ad high blood pressure in later years.
Pumping in aggression
Violent movies and games only end up creating aggression in the young minds. They start feeling that it is okay to be mean and aggressive in normal life. The child is too young to differentiate between the normal life and abnormal situations which they depict. The striking rise in children aggression is another issue we have to deal when raising a child in today’s world.
On the other side more and more emphasis is given to the emotional quotient in workplace as compared to the intelligence quotient for more effective performance. This paradoxical situation makes it all the more necessary for parents to intervene and tame this technological monster.
Although because of peer pressure and hard wiring of the last few years ,the child may be initially resistant. Parents can increase the inter family communication ,starting with dinner time where gadgets need to be away from the dinner table. We need to understand that when we take the gadget away there will be a vacuum in the child's life .This needs to be filled with quality family time and a lot of patience.
Another important step for parents who want to put an end to their children's mobile addiction is to role model them. If you cannot leave your addiction it becomes unfair to expect the kids to do so.
Although we are lucky due to the great work of a few intelligent minds we are accessible to gadgets which have increased greater convenience and colors to our lives .But it has also created these very disturbing and serious effects on our future generations. We need to act before it’s too late.