Dr Jyoti Kapoor Madan is a well-renowned Psychiatrist in Delhi- NCR. After completing her MBBS from Sardar Patel Medical College, Bikaner, she went on to study Psychiatry at the esteemed Dr Vidya Sagar Department of Psychiatry, PGIMS Rohtak. With over 15 years of experience, Dr Jyoti had worked as a Psychiatry Consultant, Researcher and psychotherapist in her tenure with famous hospitals.
COVID Pandemic has raised many psychosocial issues in its wake, and the world is grappling at the consequences of its effect at various levels. Due to social restrictions, most of the world population has to rely on the internet and online communication, for work as well as pleasure. While earlier, the issue of mobile phone overuse, internet overuse and addiction were discussed in the context of unreasonable and unnecessary use that caused avoidance of necessary physical and social activity, the pandemic has forced many unwilling people into the quagmire of the virtual world of online communication.
The research in this field has been going on for a few decades now, the adverse effects of excessive mobile phone use have been studied across various age groups. Studies indicate the following effects:
1. Effect of radiofrequency emission on human tissues
In 2011, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified mobile phone radiation possibly carcinogenic, means that there “could be some risk” of carcinogenicity, so additional research into the long-term, heavy use of mobile phones needs to be conducted.
With younger people, especially children using mobile phones for several hours in a day, the lifetime exposure to such radiation increases exponentially with potential biological impact on cell physiology.
2. Impact on neural physiology
Scientists have reported adverse health effects of using mobile phones, including changes in brain activity, reaction times, and sleep patterns. While the research is underway, children are more susceptible to such changes because they are vulnerable to emotional and behavioural disturbances due to their immature coping skills.
Excessive indulgence in mobile phone activity has addictive potential due to the ease of availability of devices and immense stimulation at fingertips. Children and young adults are driven by the pleasure principle, which means they are excited easily and are drawn towards activities that give immediate gratification. Internet surfing on mobile devices exposes one to a vast world, and with little self-control, most young people are vulnerable to indulge in virtual reality and spend less time in real-world interactions. Behavioural disturbances like spending a long time on mobile while neglecting routine activities like eating, self-care, social interaction and academics and showing withdrawal effects like irritability, aggression, mood instability, anxiety and depression when a mobile device is taken away are reasons why harmful and uncontrollable use of mobile and internet is being considered as a form of behavioural addiction.
4. Impact on social health
Real-world social interactions with family, friends, neighbours and other members of society are a necessary component of overall health, and COVID has highlighted its importance. Excessive use of internet devices reduces time as well as inclination to indulge in real physical interactions. Especially young adults who are learning social skills and behaviours are at risk of developing maladaptive personality.
5. Impact on the musculoskeletal system
Sitting and working on mobile devices for prolonged periods can cause an effect on the musculoskeletal system due to bad posture and strain on muscles of neck, shoulder and back. Excessive use of mobile has also been linked to pain and swelling in joints of thumb, fingers and wrists, leading to various deformities.
6. Eye strain and refractory errors
The continuous watching of small screen results in dry eyes, irritation of eyes, watering and eye strain which can also culminate into a higher incidence of ophthalmological and refractory errors. The impact of blue light rays entering the retina is a matter of concern, and many experts believe that it can result in macular degeneration, even though the investigations do not conclusively prove anything.
7. Impact on physical activity
Many of us have seen the reduction of physical activity among people with the spread of technology and gadgets. Internet gaming has reduced interest in sports, and less and less children are seen playing in parks.
The psychological impact of excessive mobile phone use in children
Children have an immature biological and functional system which is why they are quite vulnerable to environmental changes. The jury is still out regarding the biological and physiological impact of electromagnetic radiation emissions, but the psychosocial impact is very much apparent.
Due to online education, children are at the receiving end of the yet unknown effect of technology. Several hours of exposure to electronic screen has reduced necessary physical activity which is not only important for physical growth but has a significant effect on mental growth as well. Many bad habits like eating too much junk food and sugar cravings are associated with an electronic screen overuse.
The neural activity associated with reading and writing has many subtle benefits in terms of the development of Neuromotor, cognitive and emotional components of intelligence which are hampered due to effortless feeding of facts via electronic medium. The audio-visual content does not allow much for imagination and can reduce creativity.
The reduction in social interaction hampers social skills development, and emotional and behavioural regulation learnt during socializing. This can have a far-reaching impact on a developing personality with a risk of development of low-stress tolerance and maladaptive reactions. With the advent of compliant AI that responds to voice command, children are unfortunately losing the virtues of humility and knack of respectfully asking instead they are learning to order around what they want and even getting it.
Last but not least, technology and nature need to be in balance because too much of one harm the other. While children are being made aware of the need to save the earth through approaches focused on reducing pollution, the implications of overuse of technology also need to be highlighted. Parents and society need to be made aware of the potential damage caused by mobile phone use and alternative modes of communication and knowledge dispersion need to be worked on.
More About Dr Jyoti Kapoor
Before moving to Gurgaon in the year 2011, Dr Jyoti was working as a consultant with Asha Institute of Medical Psychology & Counseling, Hyderabad for 2 years. After having gained extensive knowledge in evaluation and management of all psychiatric disorders both through pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions, she is currently working as a senior consultant Psychiatrist at Paras Hospital, Gurgaon and also runs her own mental well-being set up, Manasthali.
Dr Jyoti uses an integrated bio-psycho-social approach to explore psychological issues for a thorough understanding of an individual’s emotional and psychosocial state and formulates a management plan accordingly. Her extensive experience in general medico-surgical conditions serves to strengthen the integrated approach necessary in consultation-liaison psychiatry to manage psychiatric conditions appearing due to neuro-surgical and medical conditions. With a zeal to contribute more towards society by her work, she is also involved in various educative and awareness programs at the local and corporate level to spread information regarding psychological and mental issues that are prevalent in society today. She has been often consulted in print media regarding events associated with psychosocial impact and also appeared in similarly themed television programs.