Experts blame overuse of tech devices for health problems in children

The overuse of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets and lack of parental control could have detrimental effects on lives of children, a group of Kuwaiti experts have concurred. The usage of electronic devices have led to a surge in the number of children who suffer from neck and shoulder pains, headache, obesity and sleeping problems, pointed out family therapist Dr. Ahmad Abdulmalek in a speech during the fifth conference on modern childhood held at the Kuwait National Library Sunday.

He lamented that such health problems used to be linked to aging and elderly people, but now spread among children due to the use of mobile devices. Due to the numerous health issues they cause, the latest studies published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that children under the age of two years should not be given any devices at all, noted Abdulmalek. He added that the AAP also suggested that over three-year-olds could be given an hour a day screen time, but not at sleeping or eating times, and under the watchful eyes of the parents.

Furthermore, Professor of Psychology at the Kuwait University Amthal Al-Howaila warned that the electronic gadgets could gravely affect people in general and children in particular. The new technology is creating problems for people, revealing personel information, destroying human relations and isolating them from each other, she regretted.

She pointed to a steady growth in the number of children suffering from isolation and depression due to the lack of human-to-human interaction and overuse of mobile devices. Al-Howaila urged families to raise awareness in their children about the dangers of those devices and to provide them with real-world alternatives. She advised families to help their children focus on fostering their hobbies, making friendships and healthy relations with peers and practicing sports.

For his part, Professor of Social Science and Anthropology Dr. Yaacoub Al-Kandari echoed a similar view. He noted a recent research paper he compiled showed that the more the child use smartphone, the more he or she becomes socially isolated. He stressed that the use of these technology impedes social relations, family and peers interactions, sports practicing and learning.

Meanwhile, head of the National Society for Child Protection Dr. Siham Al-Furaih stated that electronic devices such as smart phones and tablets have become an inescapable reality. These are double-sword tools, and if parents failed to take necessary precautions and controls they could turn into absolute curse on children, Al-Furaih cautioned. She recalled that Kuwait’s child protection law no. 21 of 2015 obliged parents to safeguard their children against any danger and not to use them for profiteering. The law had set tough penalties, including fines and imprisonment times, on parents who expose their children to dangers, turn them into commodities to make profits or those who fail to protect them or educate them about the impending dangers, including those related to the use of new technology, Al-Furaih said.