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Gadget addiction breaking kids' back

Children as young as three and four are queuing outside spine and physiotherapy clinics to deal with aches and pains triggered by obsessive use of gadgets. The rise in musculoskeletal problems are mainly caused by recurrent use of tablets, handheld games and mobile phones for texting, browsing or playing.

In the case of four-year-old Adeebh Kamble from Mazgaon, his gadget addiction manifested through continuous watering of eyes and an excruciating headache. When a visit to an eye specialist and eyedrops could not resolve the problem, the needle of suspicion turned to his daily activities, which involved spending almost every waking hour on his parents' phones. His mother Prachi admitted that Adeebh was introduced to the world of online videos, cartoons and rhymes at the age of eight months. "By the age of two, he was savvy with mobile phones," said the mother, who has cut down his phone usage to 10-15 minutes a day now.

Vidhi Kataria (4) from Opera House developed a severe back and neck pain within four months of her parents buying her a tablet. Her mother said they bought her the device only because she had no one to play with in the neighbourhood during summer vacations. "Besides the pain, it has badly affected her grades in school," said her mother Kavita, adding that often her gadget usage exceeded six to eight hours a day.

Sadiya Vanjara, who heads the department of physiotherapy and pain management at Noor Hospital, said there has been an alarming increase in the incidence of pain in the neck, shoulder, swelling of muscles from holding gadgets and even inability to sit and write for long hours, among children. "Children sit in a slouching position for hours altogether, causing discomfort to their back and spine, even affecting their posture. Swiping continuously on a screen obviously does not give them the required dexterity in the fingers or arm muscles. Further, the limited or non-existent outdoor acmustivity robs them of the optimum vitamin and calcium levels," said Vanjara. Among more worrying side-effects, said spine surgeon Dr Samir Dalvi, is that children with such addiction could develop spondylitis early in the life.

The damage, however, may be much serious and beyond physical pain. Developmental paediatrician Dr Samir Dalwai narrated the case of a three-yearold child, who was wrongly diagnosed with autism when his actual problem was poor communication skills. "It emerged that the child would not even eat without watching online shows, and spent at least four hours daily. The child had poor eye contact, delayed speech and did not mingle with other children," Dr Dalwai said. He explained that the impact on a child due to obsessive gadget usage could be colossal."It cuts off the child from learning normal communication, which happens from talking to mother, father or other family members. Gadgets just provide one-way interaction," he said.Dr Dalwai said that parents who often use gadgets as an incentive are mainly to blame." Buy them a pet, not a touch pad," he suggested.

Psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty said that a mobile phone can give a child unlimited access to the world of internet, games and porn. "Children cannot cope with the pressure that comes with it," he said.

Courtesy: - The Times of India

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