Screen addiction refers to the excessive use of electronic screen devices such as mobile, laptop, tablets, I-Pads etc which interferes with our daily life. Addiction according to Webster dictionary is defined as, “compulsive need for and use of habit forming substance characterized by tolerance and by well-defined psychological symptoms upon withdrawal broadly persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful”. And screen addiction therefore means habits such as reading, playing computer games, watching very large number of internet videos, online shopping addiction, online social networking internet pornography which leads to waste of our precious health, time, money and effort.
With the innovation of modern devices for technological progress it has brought upon numerous advantages and disadvantages. Screen addiction can be taken as one of the most serious demerits of these devices. Now it has become as one of the growing public health concern because it has been declared as national disease in countries like South Korea, Japan and China. The major public health problems caused by screen addiction are depression, social anxiety disorders, food addiction, cancer, poor eyesight, impulse control disorder, damaged self-esteem and hyper sexuality. For instance, the recent feature of Facebook live video has encouraged people to record criminal activities.
According to the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, "watching violent videos and video games by teenagers have found to be more aggressive and more likely to fight with their friends and argue with teachers”. Similarly, a research at medical center found that teenagers send an average of 34 texts a night after they get into bed. According to a study, Internet addiction disorder (IAD) in India grew by 24.6 percent. It is estimated in Japan that over 5 lakh children in between age of 12- 18 years age group are victims of screen addiction. Students even skip their classes to be online and many parents seem to have few rules about use of media by their children and adolescents and two thirds of those questioned in the study said that their parents had no rules about how much time the youngsters spent with media.
There are some interventions measures taken for internet and smart phone addicts. It includes providing counseling, preventive education, rehabilitation and alternative activities like playing, visiting new places, joining a social club, etc. Similarly providing awareness campaign directed at educating the public on the main symptoms of internet addiction. Schools can play a significant role in educating both children at school and their parents to improve cognitive skills and creativity.
In context of Nepal internet users are growing in number. In rural areas basic infrastructures are lacking but also there is reach of mobiles and internet. So, it is increasing in an unprecedented manner and thus becoming a serious public health concern globally including both developing and both developed countries. An effective measure for solving the screen addiction problem can be controlling our use of those devices which distract us instead we should use it in a way that we can get the best out of it.
(Karki is Public Health graduate pursuing Masters Degree in Food and Nutrition.)