As exams near, smartphone addiction is playing havoc with study time

Helplines inundated with calls from worried parents that their children are not focussing on coursework

With annual exams scheduled to begin by the end of February, helplines are flooded with calls not just from students trying to cope with stress but also parents desperate to disengage their children from iPads and smartphones so that they can focus on coursework. Manoj Kumar Sharma, professor of clinical psychology who heads the Service for Healthy Use of Technology (SHUT) at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), recalled a call from a frantic parent whose son will be taking the Class 12 board examination. He was spending nearly to 12 hours a day on his mobile phone. “Despite spending so much time on his mobile phone, he is confident of doing well in his examinations. But his parents feel that his performance in the preparatory examinations have not been up to the mark,” said Mr. Sharma. In this particular case though, there appears to be a generation divide. While the parents were convinced that he was wasting time surfing the internet and watching videos on YouTube, the boy told researchers at NIMHANS that he was watching videos pertaining to his academics. A majority of parents, however, are finding it difficult to stop their children from playing games. Bharathi Singh, founder of Samudra Foundation which counsels youth, said that their centre has been receiving an average of six calls a week from families where children are addicted to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and other similar games. Ms. Singh recalled a case of a class ten student whose parents and grandparents were forced to monitor the child in shifts all through the day to keep him from gaming. “The parents told us that he was an excellent student till class eight. But then he started deprioritising his studies as he slowly became addicted to playing games on the mobile phone,” she said. She also pointed out that many of the students are restless and cranky once parents confiscate their phones. She points out that parents, instead of suddenly not allowing students to use their phones, should gradually wean the gadget away from their children at the beginning of the academic year. Preethi Mathur, counsellor, Delhi Public School (North), said that while counselling students for examination-related stress, she found that many of them became anxious when they were asked to restrict use of technology. “Students tell us that using the internet for a few minutes acts as a stress buster and helps them relax. But usually at the end of a counselling session, we try and help students identify other ways to unwind and tell them to keep their technology use to the minimal.”

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