Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Smartphones can be a blessing or curse in lockdown Raya

Modern phones are supremely useful tools but too much of a good thing can harm physical, social, and psychological well-being, warn experts.

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With their smartphones demanding undivided attention, many people are becoming disconnected from their families even during festivals that are meant to reunite and bring people together.

This year, as interstate and interdistrict travel remains restricted, millions will be celebrating Raya as they did last year: away from their family.

Once again phones will be key to connecting with loved ones.

Mariani Md Nor, a psychologist and lecturer at Segi University, told MalaysiaNow that because using social media to communicate with their wider circle of family and friends may be the only option for those trapped at home, it can result in a form of addiction.

Some people become more interested in updating their status on social media than celebrating the real festival happening around them.

“Even older people can be affected by the so-called ‘phone pandemic’ when routine activity becomes a demanding habit.”

“People are generally excited for the first few days of Raya, but they may then get busy with their phones, trying to connect with online friends by isolating themselves from immediate family members there in person,” she said.

“This isn’t just a problem among young people – even older people can be affected by the so-called ‘phone pandemic’ when routine activity becomes a demanding habit.”

Fauziah Mohd Sa’ad from Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris agrees that more people are at increased risk of phone addiction as they are stranded at home during lockdown.

“People are stuck at home and they have nothing much to do, so they spend their time on the phone including during Raya,” she told MalaysiaNow. “But the phone prevents us from interacting with people in person.”

She believes limiting phone usage is the key to addressing this complex problem.

“Phone use is okay as long as it serves a purpose and makes us happy. But we need to know the limitations,” she said.

“Don’t use the phone to the extent it affects you physically, psychologically, and socially. Prioritise your health and interacting with family members around you.”

Both Mariani and Fauziah warned of phone addiction among kids who have grown up with smartphones. If left to their own devices, they can drift further and further away from interacting with people in the flesh.

Fauziah pointed out that many parents these days are actually “bribing” their children by giving them phones so they will not “disturb” them too much.

But by doing this, she said, their kids will eventually find gadgets more interesting than real people and can easily end up missing out on developing vital social skills.

There is also the risk of children being exposed to inappropriate content on the internet such as pornography and violence.

The two experts have complementary advice for parents.

Fauziah urges parents to monitor their kids’ phone usage all the time.

Mariani advises parents to set a good example for their kids to follow.

They agree that young parents should monitor their kids’ physical, emotional and social well-being.

They should control the use of electronic devices, especially phones, by their children, but also by themselves as parents.

Mariani said, “Parents should plan their children’s time meaningfully at home by ensuring their daily activities are balanced.

“Allocate children’s time with phones properly by discussing it with them. Plan their time meaningfully at home and ensure they are growing up in a positive environment.”

In short, don’t let your phone take control at Raya.

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