Excessive use of mobile phones causes addiction and affects children’s psyche. Children go to sleep with mobile phones, wake up, eat, play and study with them, which has led to the increase in the number of children with mental disorders, peer violence, obesity and digital dementia, experts warn.
“Numerous studies in the world and in Croatia indicate an increase in the risk to mental health, especially at an adolescent age, but this is increasingly moving down to a younger age.
“According to data from the World Health Organisation, one in seven adolescents aged between 10 and 19 has some mental health difficulties. And in Croatia it is more than 11%,” Croatian news agency (HINA) reported director of the Split-Dalmatia County Public Health Training Institute, Željka Karin, said at a recent round table on the impact of mobile devices on the mental health of children in Split.
The health picture of school children and young people shows that more than 49,000 girls and boys in Croatia have some form of mental disorder and that the prevalence is higher in boys than in girls.
Psychiatrist Željko Ključević warned against the use of mobile phones in class and during breaks. “Children are less focused on the teaching process. There is a lack of socialisation, there is cyberbullying, anxiety, eating disorders, a distorted self-image, and teachers are photographed without their consent.”
Of particular concern is the occurrence of digital dementia, which refers to a series of symptoms that affect the cognitive function and are similar to those of dementia, occurring as a result of excessive and inadequate use of digital technologies such as mobile phones, tablets and computers, according to Ključević.
According to data from the Blue Phone helpline, children use mobile phones to record literally everything, even what they shouldn’t, and often use the recordings to mock their friends and schoolmates and post them on social networks.
Also, searches for information on suicide and self-harm has increased by 50% among children and adolescents, it reported.
“We need to restore society’s interest in prevention, develop a network of cooperation between institutions, associations and individuals, adopt and apply examples of good practice, and ensure that parents play a key role in addition to the education system,” Ključević said.
Agnes Jelačić, a counsellor at Split’s Lokve-Gripe Primary School, has been dealing with the issue of mobile phone use among children for ten years. She says that 40% of seventh and eighth grade pupils go to sleep after 11pm because they spend time on mobile phones and come to class in the morning sleepy.
“A child who studies with a mobile phone and constantly receives text messages cannot concentrate on learning or maintain focus. These factors affect their success and learning.
“We cannot say that this is the case with everyone or that all children are addicted to mobile phones, but we have noticed that there are more and more of them who are afraid that they will lose their mobile phone and be grounded, and that is what worries us,” said Jelačić.