A majority of 98 percent of parents in the United Arab Emirates want a ban on smartphones among children under 16 years. They believe that such devices have a negative impact on the mental health of young children.
The study was conducted by Atomik Research, commissioned by Priority Group among 1,002 parents of 10 to 18-year-old children in May this year. The study showed that half (44 percent) of parents supported the ban of smartphones for under 16's.
‘Smartphones have serious consequences on childrens mental health which allow them to access sites promoting pornography, violence, gambling, cyberbullying and so on.’
Following the footsteps of France which recently banned smartphones in schools by children of 15 years and below, UAE schools 'could make pacts' with parents to discourage the buying of smartphones for children, says UAE psychiatrist Dr. Rasha Bassim, from Priory Wellbeing Centre in Dubai.
Using smartphones for more than three hours a day have dangerous physiological and medical effects on children. The brain chemistry of children addicted to smartphones and the internet becomes unbalanced causing irritability, emotional distress, abnormal sleep patterns, isolation, anxiety, and depression. She also added that children need a basic cell phone to keep safe and ensure their parents are aware of their movements.
Dr Ramsey Mustafa Al Omari, paediatric and neonatal consultant, Canadian Specialist Hospital, said spending more than five hours in front of a screen (TV or smartphones) promotes sedentary life and unhealthy eating habits which results in weight gain and obesity, thereby in the long run lead to more severe diseases like diabetes, hypertension etc. From a psychological point of view, mobile phones and TV are as addictive as caffeine where they give instant gratification to the children. "Overuse can cause narrowing of blood vessels in the eyes," He added.
Nadia Brooker, a counseling psychologist at Priory Wellbeing Centre, believes the overuse of cell phones can have long-term outcomes on a child's development. She says, "Smartphones allow children to access sites promoting pornography, gambling, violence and allow cyberbullying, with the potential for serious consequences."
Young people need to be encouraged to be active, engage in face to face social interactions and explore and participate in 'real life' situations, to be strong and healthy individuals both physically and mentally, says Brooker.