Kunal Singh (name changed) was a cheerful, talkative boy who would be actively involved in his day to day activities at home and school. Six months ago, he started having sleep issues which were a result of frequent panic attacks during the night.
For a nine-year-old, having frequent anxiety attacks is a rare phenomenon. Hence, it puzzled the doctor who was treating the child. It made him wonder what would be the cause of him experiencing these attacks. The reason, however was painfully simple – TV crime shows.
Along with watching television shows and playing games, the increasing popularity of gadget addiction can be lethal to a child’s health, say experts. Each of these becomes a problem when it’s highly accessible and it transforms form mere liking to an addiction.
“His parents had the habit of watching late night crime shows like fear files, crime patrol and Savdhan India, thinking that the child is fast asleep. However, it was this graphic imagery of the shows that disturbed the kid psychologically. So much so that, the kid had to undergo counselling and anti-anxiety medications,” said Dr Avinash Desousa, co-founder of Desousa Foundation, who was treating Singh.
This isn’t an isolated case. Increasing addiction to such shows unleashes a plethora of negative effects on the children, and experts say this is a dangerous trend. “Parents and caregivers have to be vigilant about what the kids are viewing on TV and online. Children and teenagers process information very differently from adults,” said Havovi Hyderabadwalla, Clinical and Forensic psychologist and co-founder of Mind Mandala.
The distinction between children friendly shows and other content is a decision for parents to make.
“The brain of a teenager isn’t fully developed which is why it is hard for them to solve a problem and look beyond their emotional pain in a way which adults can,” added Hyderabadwalla.
Furthermore, some doctors say it is this point of vulnerability among children that leads them to take extreme steps, “Children start feeling very low and worked up after a certain point, this leads them to become highly vulnerable. It is then, that these games like Blue Whale target them. It’s like adding fuel to the fire. These kids, do not know how to come out of it and start getting even more anxious which may have bitter consequences,” said Dr Heena Merchant, Psychiatrist,KEM Hospital.
Hence, parents must spend quality time with their children by keeping their age and level of understanding in mind, “Help the future generation develop digital maturity in a responsible and mindful manner. Talk to your teens. Open the roads of communication. Hold their hand and help them to see right from wrong,” suggested Hyderabadwalla.