Around 65% children have become device addictive in recent months and are unable to stay away from the device even for half an hour. Children are expressing anger, crying, not listening to parents, showing irritable behaviour when asked to leave the device.
These facts have come to light in a sample survey carried out by physicians at JK Lone Hospital in Jaipur on 203 children to study the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on child health.
The survey says that a total of 65.2 per cent of students have reported physical problems, 23.40% have gained weight, 26.90% have suffered headache/ irritability and 22.40% had reported eye pain and itching.
In fact, 70.70% students with high screen exposure during the lockdown days have behavioural problems, 23.90% skipped their daily routines, 20.90 per cent became careless, 36.80 per cent became stubborn and 17.40% reported a reduced attention span.
The study was conceived by Dr Ashok Gupta, Medical Superintendent & Senior Professor, Department of Pediatrics. Under his direction, this study was carried out by Dr. Ramesh Chaudhary, Dr.Dhan Raj Bagri, Dr.Kamlesh Agarwal, Dr.Vivek Athwani and Dr. Anil Sharma.
In view of the prevailing lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, data was gathered on electronic platforms and social media for the study in which the latest and standard questionnaires were used to collect the data.
After obtaining consent, questionnaires were sent to the parents.
The information pertaining to around 55% boys and 45% girls was shared by parents residing in the major cities of Rajasthan such as Jaipur, Jodhpur, Kota, Udaipur, Ajmer, Ganganagar, Bhilwara, Sikar, Churu, Alwar, Hanumangarh, Nagaur, Bharatpur, as well as cities outside Rajasthan such as Delhi and NCR, Kolkata, Mumbai, Agra, Lucknow, Chandigarh.
The survey said that children used mobiles, laptops, computers and tablets available at home out of which mobiles was the most used tool.
Most schools, on an average, engaged children in online classes for 1-8 hours (mean 3 hours ) per day.
It was concluded that after the lockdown almost all the children had a screen time increase of 2-3 times (5 hours/day from 2 hours/day) which reduced their physical activity.
About 50% of these children have difficulty in sleeping after going to bed for 20 to 60 minutes and 17% of the children wake up in the middle of their sleep at night and take 20 to 30 minutes to get back to sleep.
They also suffered daytime sleepiness, daytime tiredness, headache and irritability, weight gain, change in body and back pain and changed toilet habits.
Complaints of behaviour change were also reported in about two-thirds of the children. About 6-7 percent of the children started having bedtime fears, stubbornness increased to 32%. The incidence of uncontrolled anger (tantrums) in children also increased by 30%.
To meet the demand of online classes, about 38% families had to buy a new device, which also put some financial burden on them.
The study overall concluded that COVID-19 and the lockdown had a significant negative impact on the physical, mental and emotional health of the children leading to poor quality sleep, psychiatric disorders and parent-child discord.
Dr Anamika Papriwal, a psychologist, told IANS that family fights over electronic gadgets like laptops, computers and mobile phones, have become common during this ‘work from home’ (WFH) regime.
“I have been receiving regular calls from families facing erratic behaviour from their kids. They share their harrowing tales,” she said.
In fact, parents in Rajasthan have also been protesting demanding suspension of online classes for primary school.”Virtual classes are creating health problems for our children,” said a parent Anil Mathur, during a protest being staged outside Mahaveer public School demanding suspension of online classes for kids.