January 2019 News
Kashmir Faces A New Challenge: Kids Turning Into Smartphone Zombies19 January 2019
Srinagar: Momin, a 15-year-old is a Class 9 student is suffering from anxiety. Psychiatrists at the local hospital have advised his parents to keep him away from smartphones and social media. Excessive use of social media and the continuous use of smartphones have made Kashmiri youths susceptible to mental disorders and stress. More and more young people are suffering from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to mental health professionals. Just a few years back Momin was excellent in studies and doing well in sports too. Now he's not interested in studies and rarely goes out to play. He spends all his time staring at his smartphone, Momin's worried father says. Kashmir Valley is not immune to mental stress. A survey conducted by Medecins Sans Frontieres in collaboration with local mental health professionals found almost 45 per cent of the total population living under mental stress, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD). What is keeping medical professionals worried in Kashmir is the growing number of young people, and especially those below 10, who are becoming hooked to their smartphones. Due to certain reasons people in Kashmir are living under mental stress and anxiety; smartphones have added to this scourge, especially among teens and children, says Dr Nisar ul Hassan, president, Doctors Association Kashmir. Research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that the more time you spend on social media, the more likely you are to be depressed. Participants who checked social media more frequently were 2.7 times more likely to be depressed than those who checked less frequently,' Dr Hassan says. Giving an example, Dr Hassan says that when a youth uploads a photo of his on social media and receives negative comments, he becomes depressed. This is just the beginning of a downward spiral towards serious mental health issues. Without sufficient recreational options in the Valley, for the young smartphones become the only outlet spending hours scrolling it. Children are becoming rebellious, not getting enough sleep staring at their phones even when in bed. Social media is influencing the academic performance of students negatively as it distracts students from their studies. I caught many students in my class who bring smartphones along with them, hardly concentrating on studies, playing online games, chatting with friends even during important lectures, says Samina, a teacher, who has been teaching senior school for nearly a decade. Weather and political conditions both contribute to this malaise. Kashmir has no recreational or entertainment avenues. Shutdowns and curfews during the summer months force the young inside. Winter months are no better with the harsh weather keeping the youth are cooped up inside their homes. Social activist blames parents for their wards choosing online games to outdoor games. Unfortunately parents do yet not understand the importance of outdoor sports for kids. Instead of getting their kids to play outdoor sports like football, cricket or even indoor games, parents are facilitating the use of gadgets, he says. Srinagar-based psychiatrist Dr Arif Maghribi Khan says part of the problem lies in the growing consumerism where an expensive smartphone trumps education. Instead of investing trust in their personalities and qualifications, they feel that gadgets will fetch them respect; and if they are taken away from these gadgets especially by parents, an emotional vacuum overwhelms them, Dr Khan says. Aggression and behavioural issues, memory problems, disturbed sleep cycle...at the root of all these are the excessive use of smartphones and social media. And mental health professionals are warning of a ticking bomb.