A study conducted by Jaipur-based JK Lone Children’s Hospital has found that the lockdown restrictions, which were enforced from March 25 to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, have had an adverse impact on the physical, mental and emotional health of the impressionable minds, resulting in an addiction to electronic devices, obesity, and an irritable behavioural pattern.
The study, which was conducted online across 30 Indian cities, has concluded that the children’s addiction to electronic devices during the lockdown increased up to three times, as they spent between two and five hours a day on their favourite gadgets.
The survey revealed that 65% of the children became addicted to electronic devices, while 50% of them couldn’t stay away from their gadgets for even half an hour.
A rise in incidences of no mobile phone phobia was also observed.
“Children were found to be flying into a fit of rage, uncontrollable crying, disobedience to their parents, and also displayed irritable behavioural pattern, if they were told to lay off their electronic devices,” said Dr. Ashok Gupta, medical superintendent and senior professor at JK Lone Hospital.
Dr. Gupta was the guiding force behind the study, which also included other doctors from the hospital such as Dr. Ramesh Chaudhary, Dr. Dhanraj Bagri, Dr. Kamlesh Agarwal, Dr. Vivek Athwani, and Dr. Anil Sharma.
Dr. Gupta said it has been proven worldwide that the mental and physical development of children’s faculties is hindered due to excessive use of electronic devices.
India might face a similar problem, he warned.
The study said children’s linguistic skills, power of critical and analytical thinking would be vastly reduced because of their growing addiction to electronic devices.
It urged parents and policymakers to be aware of this emerging trend of addiction to electronic devices and limit e-learning, as it cannot be a viable substitute for the traditional way of classroom teaching.
The online survey was conducted from June 1 to 15 and the sample size was 203 respondents from Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Bhilwara, Ajmer, Alwar, Kota, Ganganagar, Sikar, Churu, Nagaur, and Bharatpur in Rajasthan and other big cities such as the Delhi-national capital region (NCR), Kolkata, Mumbai, Agra, Lucknow, and Chandigarh.
Two-thirds of the respondent parents said they had noticed changes in their children’s behavioural patterns and habits during the lockdown restrictions.
Complaints of daytime sleepiness and tiredness, headache, irritability, weight gain, back pain, etc; have been observed among their children.
Also, 45% of the children have had difficulty sleeping at night because of reduced physical activity and a simultaneous uptick in addiction to electronic devices.
The study found that the average sleep duration for the children during lockdown was 8.7 hours per day.
Up to 7% of children’s bedtime anxiety increased by 32%. While the incidence of uncontrolled anger and tantrums rose by 30% among the children.
Many respondent parents have expressed their reservations about e-learning.
Around 33% of respondents said they didn’t see any improvement in the level of their children’s education and 19% felt that there was a dip in the standard, as compared to before.
About 38% of the respondents had to buy new electronic devices for their children to attend online classes, which put a financial burden on them.
Dr. Gupta, however, advocated a two-way interaction between teachers and students and emphasised on holding practical classes.
“Over 50% of the schools share one-way pre-recorded or live videos to conduct online classes,” he added.
Also, at least 83% of the respondent parents supervised their children’s studies and home tasks during the lockdown and 66% of the students did self-study at home.
While 92% of the respondent parents gave consent to the schools to hold online classes.
Mobile phones emerged as the most preferred medium for virtual teaching, which was between one and eight hours a day.
There have been some positive spin-offs of online classes for the children, including a greater focus on self-study and value for time, exploring new technological tools, and showing greater affection to their family members.