Tackling adverse impacts of electronic gadgets

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By Masud Khabeki

 The current student generation is dubbed as ‘Generation Next” because they are digitally more active than any previous generation. Their life style is much more dependent on electronic media than ever. Their activities include e-mailing, instant messaging, cellular phone communication, social networking sites, video or online gaming, and television and movie viewing. Due to the widespread use in academics or social interaction or the growing dependence of coming generation on electronic media deserve attention by the peers and families to assess the benefits and damages caused by this dependence which is diagnosed as ‘electronic addictiveness’.

Everything is good if it used in a positive way or bad if used negatively. The way our younger generation has found a refuge in the use of electronic gadgets could hurt not only their physical quality but could inflict psychological damage. It is necessary for the elders including parents and teachers to keep track of the amount of time their kids and students are spending on using electronic gadgets. No doubt, technology is important, but so is our health It is important to restrict the amount of time children spend on gadgets and don’t allow them to use after their time is finished. It is also important to limit the time of watching TV for younger generation. Small children can use gadget an hour a day and two hours a day for school going children. It is useful to encourage children to play outside with their friends and siblings enabling them to learn to interact and communicate with other children. Its far better to play with pets like cats, dogs and other kids rather than watching any animated movie. It also helps in exercising long distance vision and lessens the chances of myopia. Instead of using electronic devices as babysitters and keeping children busy with gadgets, parents allowed themselves to have some peace. This attitude on the part of elders is totally damaging for their children rather they could keep their children occupied with other creative toys, story books, puzzles, coloring books. Furthermore, parents have to ensure adequate sleep for their children. Children must have enough sleep for about 10 hours a day. Good sleep also helps recover from eye strain and for efficient working of brain. Good sleep is also necessary for good health.

Obviously, it is difficult to keep younger generation away from gadgets as their life has become dependent on electronic devices for many reasons including studies, information and social interaction. But, definitely we can limit their time. Encouraging child to use it in educational field or study purpose can lead to drastic change in their lives. It can help them to enhance their skills. Use of gadgets in a constructive way can lead to healthier and efficient minds. One of the biggest issues modern educational institutions and parents have encountered is how to manage students’ electronic use. The Australian Department of Health’s guidelines for the students and parents could be used as an example to monitor the use of electronic gadgets among young generation. The guidelines state students aged five to 18 shouldn’t be spending more than two hours per day engaged in electronic media for entertainment (such as television, computer use and seated games). There are now many more aspects of electronic device use including laptops, smart phones, televisions, tablets, gaming devices and family computers that need to be considered beyond a set time or type of screen-based task. In addition to physical inactivity and obesity risks, other possible health consequences can include sleepeyesposture and a range of other wellbeing issues.

It is pertinent to mention that the use of electronic devices just before bedtime can cause students to stay up later and can reduce their melatonin levels (from the light from screens being used). This can throw out students’ circadian rhythms. Loss of sleep for school-aged students is likely to impact their learning faculties. Eye health is also important to take consideration. Electronic device use can negatively impact on students’ eye health through strain from prolonged use, poor screen positioning, poor resolution, contrast and/or level of brightness. There are many other dangers associated with the use of electronic gadgets by the children.

With so many devices now available in schools and at home, there is also an increased likelihood of postural issues. A desire for convenience of access can lead to awkward head and neck positions when looking at a screen. In addition to common computer mismatches between classroom furniture and a student’s body, the emergence of mobile devices can cause strains from a misalignment between a student’s line of sight and their hand position. Postural difficulties in school-aged students can cause restricted circulation, fatigue, restrict breathing, eye strain and discomfort.

Parents and children have to use caution while using electronic gadgets. These could be useful not only maintaining their health but improve their overhaul deteriorating behavior. Turn electronic devices off at least one hour before bedtime would improve a student’s ability to fall asleep, and help them sleep longer. This can help improve students’ daily health and, subsequently, their learning. Administer a 20-20-20 rule to break up unavoidable and prolonged periods of screen engagement, the user of electronic gadget must look away from screen a maximum of every 20 minutes and look 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This can allow a shift in focus and allow the muscles around the eyes to be exercised. The user must ensure a “one and two foot rule” in case of smart phones to be 30 cm and computer monitors/tablet screens to be between 50-63 cm away from the head. The eyes could feel strain from focusing on objects less than 30cm away. Always ensure text on students’ screens is three times larger than the smallest size they can read from a normal viewing position. Device sizes vary significantly, so students should be advised on the size of the text on the screen to reduce eye strain.

There are other areas of electronic media use that are important to consider. This includes using glasses designed to protect eyes from screen-based blue light and the importance of physically connecting with other people and nature. Engagement with nature has been shown to develop restorative benefits including reduced stress, increased attention span and overall well-being. Modelling the recommended behaviors for electronic device use are also important for teachers and parents.

Masud Khabeki is adjunct faculty Criminology at University of Arid Agriculture, Rawalpindi