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Gadgets and Kids - How much is too much?

Gadgets And Kids- How Much Is Too Much?

How much time did your son/daughter spend on a smartphone yesterday? Do you know what applications they normally use and use and for how much time? Are they easily accessing the internet via their tablet/phone?

Are your kids talking to strangers online? Does your  your child prefer playing games on gadgets over sleeping, playing outside or other activities?

If these questions worried you or you’re unsure of the answers, it’s possible that you need to more closely supervise probably your children’s gadget usage. 

Internet at fingertips, amazing gadgets, educational and entertaining apps created only for children have been a boon for children and parents alike! But experts are warning that overuse of technology is affecting physical and mental health of kids.

Overuse of technology makes kids vulnerable to 'Technology Addiction'. This is a relatively new concepts and few are aware of how harmful this can be - for kids and adults.

Parents, be warned - Smartphone Addiction Is A Real Thing!

Mr. Balhara, a psychiatrist at AIIMS said: "MRI studies and CAT scans for mobile addicts have shown patterns similar to those suffering from heroin and cocaine addiction,".

Mr. Sameer Malhotra, the head of Mental Health and Behavioral Science at Max Hospitals in Delhi shared the details of a case where a 12-year old kid got so addicted to his smartphone that he preferred soiling his pants than getting away from his gadget to use the restroom. There are many such cases but the awareness regarding smartphone abuse is gradually increasing ever since the Blue Whale Online Game Challenge engulfed the lives of more than 100 Indian children.


Parents, Look Out For These Worrisome Signals!

Using technology responsibly is need of the hour - look out for behavioral changes and be alert so you can prevent kids from becoming addicted to technology:

  • Persistent use of smartphones and avoiding social interaction;
  • For kids without smartphones, frequently requesting parents for gadgets and throwing tantrums on denial;
  • Drastic change in sleeping patterns to suggest overuse of phones at night;
  • Refusing to eat without smartphone in their hands;
  • Obsessed with fictional gaming characters; and
  • Abrupt disengagement with once loved hobbies, games, and friends.

What is the solution here then? The answer is simple - clear boundaries & careful observation!

Here are some effective pointers on how to prevent smartphone addiction in your kids:

  1. Scheduling! Set limits for screen time -  TV, computers & mobiles!
  2. Keep a check on whether their homework is completed and not incomplete due to game breaks on phone.
  3. Create strict mobile-free zones in your home - dining table, bed, study table etc. where kids cannot use their phones. This will ensure adequate tech-free hours to and prevent addiction.
  4. Monitor your child’s social presence. Almost all SM platforms feature ‘Last Seen’ which allows you to track their presence
  5. Sign-up your kids for hobby classes and urge the teachers to have mobile-free sessions
  6. Avoid being too strict - be vigilant, flexible  but always in exchange for recovery

So to recap, when it it 'Too Much'??

When a child prefers a smartphone over meals, meeting friends, hobbies, sleep, studies or even spending time with you (the parent) is when tech use is ‘Too Much’. Be observant, draw clear boundaries and keep your kids safe!

Parents, is 'dry drowning' something to worry about?

Parents, is 'dry drowning' something to worry about?

Summers are here and until the clouds pour down, kids are going to find ways to frolic and play in the water. Afternoons in the swimming pool, recurring demands of visiting beaches and water parks, etc. are popular activities.

Needless to say, all parents take every possible precaution to keep their children safe when around water. But are there any uncommon risks to you are not aware of?

‘Dry drowning’ or ‘delayed drowning’ although not common but can be a serious risk to a child’s safety. There is increased awareness on this topic after recent incidents in the US have led to children falling very sick after being in the water.


So, What Is ‘Dry Drowning’?

‘Dry drowning’ is not a medical term. The contradictory terms, ‘dry’ and ‘drowning’ often confuses people. But parents are becoming more aware of it since a kid aged 4 died of in Texas, US because of delayed drowning. There have also been some other instances where the children fell quite sick after they'd been playing in water.

Basically, while playing or swimming in water, kids can accidentally swallow water through the nose and mouth but seem fine after the incident.

The amount of water swallowed is not enough to drown a person but it can sometimes cause spasms in the airway - which can close up & stop you from breathing. What makes ‘dry drowning’ or ‘delayed drowning’ dangerous is that respiratory issues can arise 24-48 hours after the child has been in water. If these symptoms are not noticed or treated by a medical professional, they can become serious and in rare cases it can be fatal.

How Do You Recognize Symptoms Of Dry Drowning?

For starters, just be observant!

If your child has been around water in the past 24 - 48 hours and starts to exhibit any of the following symptoms, please make sure to see a medical professional:

  • Persistent Cough
  • Sudden Shortness of Breath or rapid breathing
  • Change in behaviour
  • Unusual lethargy or sleepiness
  • Nausea or vomiting

These are some of the common symptoms of ‘delayed drowning’ which you shouldn’t ignore if your child has been anywhere near water in the previous 24 - 48 hours. Even if it doesn’t seem too serious, get medical attention to be on the safer side anyways and to rule out possibility of health issues. 

Can You Prevent Dry Drowning?

Please remember ‘dry drowning’ or ‘delayed drowning’ is very uncommon so parents should not be paranoid but it is better to be aware of the risk, however small it is.

For starters, make sure there is adult supervision whenever your kids are in water even if they know how to swim. Teach children them water safety norms and make them aware of the dangers of being careless around a pool or water body.

If there has been a lot of rough playing or water splashing around, ask them periodically if they are feeling anything unusual.

Make sure you don’t allow your children near water if they are under any medication as medicines can make kids drowsy. Ensure kids always have flotation device whenever possible. And lastly, always be observant of your kid’s activities and symptoms.

Do not panic but vigilance is a small price to pay for your child’s safety.

Is your child a victim of 'cyber-bullying'?

Is your child a victim of 'cyber-bullying'?

Bullying has always been a prominent and an ugly truth of schooling years but the virtual space of social media has introduced us to an entirely kind of bullying.

Parents who had just started dealing with challenging existence of playground bullying of boys and snarky remarks from girls are now struggling to cope with another menace children are facing - Cyberbullying.

 

What Is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is not that different from traditional bullying. But when bullies target victims via online platforms including e-mail, IMs, text messages, social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) videos, or any other digital or electronic medium, the act is referred as cyberbullying.

"Cyber bullies can hide behind a mask of anonymity online and do not need direct physical access to their victims to do unimaginable harm."

Anna Maria Chavez

But it’s a lot more dangerous because often the ‘bully’ can be an unknown person or can hide their identity online and still torment your son or daughter. Unfortunately for the parent, cyber-bullying is extremely difficult to monitor & track because often it can be anonymous. Victims are left feeling helpless and often reported experiencing depression and anxiety.

 

victim of cyberbullying

 

Is Cyberbullying common In India?

Yes! Infact, statistics on cyber-bullying in India are alarming.

According to this survey in 2014, a massive 32% of parents confirmed that their children had been a victim of cyberbullying. These numbers are significantly higher than those in western countries. 

Another survey conducted by Microsoft in 2012, in which 7600 children participated, 53% of children aged 8-17 admitted to being harassed or bullied on the Internet. This included mean treatment online, victims of name-calling on social media and being teased or mocked online.

How Concerned Should Parents Be?

“If only she had come to us before taking such a step.”, said the police officer investigating the case of a 17-year old school girl who ended her life after being cyberbullied by her friends in Kolkata.

"Cyber-bullying is poised to turn into the biggest online concern, already affecting up to 35% of all children."

Dr Martyn Wild

This is the most distressing part of cyberbullying! It’s extremely hard to keep your children safe if they don’t share how they are treated online and the humiliating experiences they are going through. And you, as a parent remain in the dark about the hopelessness in your child’s life.

Sadly, only 1 in 10 victims confide in their parents or teachers about being bullied. This suggests that there’s a 90% chance that your child may be trying to hide his/her plight from you.

What Can Parents Do Then?

For starters, closely observe the child’s behavior. There are some very common behavioral changes that cyberbullied kids show: 

  • Once Internet-savvy, you see sudden disinterest in using computers
  • Abrupt disconnection of social media accounts
  • Signs of secretiveness for online activities
  • Sudden mood swings after reading a text or scrolling through social media
  • Loss of appetite or sleep
  • An abrupt drop in grades or unwilling to go to school (The most important)
  • Unlikely emotional outbursts, frustration, or anger

If you see any of these signs, talk to your child carefully or speak to a professional.  

How To Safeguard Your Kids Against Cyberbullying?

Teach your children about cyberbullying. Explain the difference between bullying and ‘casual fun’. Let them know which types of behavior are punishable under law and teach them to not tolerate any bullying.

You could also supervise their social media use without invading their privacy. Given easy access to internet & social media, all kids are vulnerable and parents should be cautious. Talk to them, know what  apps or sites they are using and stay updated. Constant vigilance is the need of the hour!