Year : 2021 | Volume
: 37 | Issue : 3 | Page : 257--259
Role of schools in management of “tech addiction” in children and adolescents during the pandemic
Professor, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Unit, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India
Prof. Satya Raj
Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu
Technology and tech devices have revolutionized the world, made things very simple, fast, and quick, especially teaching and learning has been made accessible to all. It has been a blessing during the pandemic definitely as it has helped millions of children learn in the safety of their homes. However, it has also brought with it, numerous problems we are struggling to grapple with now. Tech-addiction is a major problem, in many children and adolescents, and it has been affecting their physical, emotional, and social well-being. This has been a major concern globally. The current article will focus on the role of schools in addressing Tech addiction and the way forward. Addressing tech addiction in schools from a primary and secondary prevention model will be very effective. The article also highlights the simple ways in which this can be done.
|How to cite this article:|
Raj S. Role of schools in management of “tech addiction” in children and adolescents during the pandemic.Indian J Soc Psychiatry 2021;37:257-259
|How to cite this URL:|
Raj S. Role of schools in management of “tech addiction” in children and adolescents during the pandemic. Indian J Soc Psychiatry [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Dec 8 ];37:257-259
Available from: https://www.indjsp.org/text.asp?2021/37/3/257/327290
Digitalization and technology has had an exponential growth over the recent years. Although there have been benefits due to this growth, it has also been a major challenge for children and adolescents to optimize the use of devices, and more so for the parents in being able to mindfully watch them, supervise them so that they do not get addicted to the tech devices. “Smart phones, tablets, and laptops are now common household items, and with the pandemic hitting the world, it has thrown many children out of their normal routines of attending school, and online learning has become the “new normal.”
According to the data provided by the UNESCO, the peak burden of school closure was during April 2020, when almost around 1.3 billion learners were affected worldwide. Educationalist, policy-makers, school authorities, and teachers quickly stepped up to bridge the gap, between, “no school, no learning to online learning.” The pandemic has revolutionized the traditional teaching learning practices, but now, it is high time we reflect into the strengths, weakness, and the challenges due to “online learning.” Has it left all the children with a free access to the digital devices on the pretext that they have online classes, and parents are not able to monitor the online activity of their children?
Strengths of Online Learning
The strengths are multifold. It is student centered, flexible with respect to time and location, creates an effective learning environment, uses multiple teaching-learning modalities for example, videos, audios, lectures, and interactive sessions. Online learning can be virtual or real time as well, thereby providing opportunity for immediate feedback to the students.
Challenges of Online Learning
The challenges faced are also obvious, not all students have the access to internet and smart phones, to be able to effectively benefit from the online learning. There have been multiple ways in which the Government of India has tried to tackle this issue of inequitable resources by having educational sessions through the Television, and the “Swayam” project was specifically aimed at making education accessible to all. Addressing the digital literacy of the users has also been done by various methods.
The biggest challenges we are struggling to cope with now are the increasing screen time in children and adolescents, access to the internet 24 × 7, and the deleterious effects of the social media on children, gaming addiction, and last but not the least cyber bullying. Let us look into them briefly, and then come up with some solutions for the problems as well.
Screen time is the total time spent per day in viewing screens such as mobile phone, TV, tablet, laptop, computer or any hand-held or visual device. Both the quality and quantity of time spent before the screen are very important. When the normal daily routine of children such as school-work, playtime, relaxation, family time, mealtime, and sleep are affected or compromised due to use of gadgets, then we refer to this as excessive screen time causing impairment in regular functioning.
Dangers of Social Media
Children being exposed to inappropriate content on several social media platforms, such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Instagram are a major threat. It can be a major time stealer, where children get lost and spend increasing amounts of time and neglect other routine activities.
Gaming disorder is defined as a pattern of gaming behavior characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities, and continuation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences. The behaviour pattern must have been noted for at least 12 months and be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
It is bullying/harassment that occurs through the digital devices (smart phones, computers, and tablets) in social platforms by posting, or sharing negative, and adverse, false, embarrassing, or mean content about another person. This causes significant emotional distress and leads to various psychological problems such as anxiety and depression.
Benefits versus Risks of Technology
How do we strike a balance between need to give the gadgets and devices to our children to enable them to learn, versus being aware of the pitfalls and protecting them from falling prey to the tech addiction? More importantly who is to do it, is it the responsibility of the children, parents, teachers, or school authorities?
The American Academy of Pediatrics has addressed the issue of media use in children and have provided guidelines for safe use of “tech devices” in children. The Indian Academy of Pediatrics has released the screen time guidelines for parents, and the position statement by Indian Academy of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Task force has also addressed this issue eloquently. Let us now try to focus on the role of schools in decreasing the tech addiction and helping children with “smart use of screen time.”
Role of Schools in Decreasing the “Tech Addiction”
Schooling plays a major role in the life of children and adolescents, it provides a structured and enriching environment for the overall physical, psychological, and social development of the child and prepares them for the challenges of life effectively. Schools play a very important role in health promotion in children and adolescents. Schools are therefore best suited to guide children and keep them away from the clutches of the tech addiction.
We can address this problem of “tech addiction” at three levels, primary, secondary, and tertiary. There have been a few studies which have addressed the problem of the gaming addiction and compulsive internet use. Primary prevention has two components: universal health promotion and specific protection of the high-risk groups. A secondary school in Netherlands implemented a health promotion program, which targeted health behaviors such as physical activity, body mass index, alcohol use, psychosocial well-being, internet and game use, and it was found that heavy internet use was associated with psychosocial problems in adolescents. The preliminary results of the intervention were also evaluated.
Schools in Germany implemented a prevention program named “Protect protocol,” in which brief cognitive behavior therapy-based sessions were given to adolescents to reduce the risk of onset of internet use disorders. It was based on the principles of risk reduction and strength promotion.
At the secondary level, the focus is on early identification and intervention. Walthe et al. showed that school-based session on media literacy, addressing gaming, and Internet use behaviors in adolescents was helpful in decreasing the frequency of gaming.
Throuvala et al. in their systematic review had highlighted that, defining the term internet addiction with clarity, using standardized measures to assess the severity of the problem, and to build more effective evidence-based prevention programs focusing on harm reduction and skill enhancement was needed. It is therefore needed for all schools to start working on such prevention programs to address the growing problem of “tech addiction” in children and adolescents.
This can be done in many ways by the school authorities.
Essential Steps to Help Children Manage Tech Addiction-7 E's
Children actively in the online learning process.
Structured online learning programs, with timely evaluation and refinement of the process. Assessing the efficacy of online learning and academic progress. To keep a watch on children and also check about the ill effects of online time if any and rectify them. Using structured assessment tools to assess the severity of the internet addiction.
Children to build their creative skills and critical thinking and positive skill enhancement. Encourage physical activity, and unplugged time.
Children and parents about the ill effects of excessive screen time, social media, gaming addiction, and cyber bullying. This can prevent them from getting addicted to the devices and help them use the technology effectively and efficiently. Educate the children about online privacy and safety issues.
The importance of enriching family time and social relationships.
Parental supervision of digital tech-use in their children.
Parents to set strict limits on use of gadgets, and effective use of digital time. Families must follow “Digital hygiene” and have a structure to the day.
Schools can do this by having frequent sessions with the children and parents, and highlighting the ill effects of excessive screen time, and social media use. Internet addiction and gaming prevention programs can be implemented by schools very effectively. Finally, we must help parents identify problematic gadget use, and gaming addiction in children and enable them to access help when needed.
Schools can initiate the process of improving the knowledge about tech addiction, problems with increasing screen time by psycho-educating the children, empowering the parents, and also having internet addiction prevention programs integrated with other skill building programs. However, none the less the onus of responsibility lies on the parent and “family as a unit,” to abide by the rules laid by them for themselves. Following simple practices such as, having more family time, encouraging children to openly communicate their problems with parents, restricting internet time, and having a “no tech time, device free zone at home,” can all lead to effective use of screen time and decrease the possibility of tech addiction.
Use the tech devices for your benefit.
Don't let them use you.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
|1||Global Monitoring of School Closures Caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic, UNESCO; 2020. Available from - http://covid19.uis.unesco.org/global-monitoring-school-closures-covid19/. [Last accessed on 2021Aug 01].|
|2||Dhawan S. Online learning: A panacea in the time of COVID-19 crisis. J Educ Technol Syst 2020;49:5-22.|
|3||Screen Time Guidelines for Parents, Indian Academy of Pediatrics. Available from: https://iapindia.org/pdf/Screentime-Guidelines-for-Parents-Ch-005. [Last accessed on 2021Aug 01].|
|4||Aarseth, E., Bean, A. M., Boonen, H., Colder Carras, M., Coulson, M., Das, D, et al, Scholars' open debate paper on the World Health Organization ICD-11 Gaming Disorder proposal. Journal of behavioral addictions, 6(3), 267–270. https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.5.2016.088.|
|5||Chauhan N, Patra S, Bhargava R, Srivastava C, Gujar KV, Gupta N, et al. Position statement by taskforce on behalf of IACAM. J Indian Assoc Child Adolesc Ment Health 2021;17:219-29.|
|6||Guram S, Heinz P. Media use in children: American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations 2016. Arch Dis Child Educ Pract Ed. 2018 Apr;103(2):99-101. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2017-312969.|
|7||Stewart-Brown S. Evaluating health promotion in schools: Reflections. WHO Reg Publ Eur Ser 2001; (92):271-84.|
|8||de Leeuw RJ, de Bruijn M, de Weert-Van Oene GH, Schrijvers AJ. Internet and game behaviour at a secondary school and a newly developed health promotion programme: A prospective study. BMC Public Health 2010;10:544.|
|9||Lindenberg K, Halasy K, Schoenmaekers S. A randomized efficacy trial of a cognitive-behavioral group intervention to prevent Internet Use Disorder onset in adolescents: The PROTECT study protocol. Contemp Clin Trials Commun 2017;6:64-71.|
|10||Walther B, Hanewinkel R, Morgenstern M. Effects of a brief school-based media literacy intervention on digital media use in adolescents: Cluster randomized controlled trial. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw 2014;17:616-23.|
|11||Throuvala MA, Griffiths MD, Rennoldson M, Kuss DJ. School-based prevention for adolescent internet addiction: Prevention is the key. A systematic literature review. Curr Neuropharmacol 2019;17:507-25.|