Device addiction, a growing problem

Communication facilities, especially the use of mobile phones, have made phenomenal progress in the country in the last two decades and it has had economic, social and other consequences. According to the telecom regulatory authority, TRAI, mobile phone usage has increased 15 times in the last three years. Internet usage has also increased. The average monthly data consumption went up from 0.26 GB per person in late 2014 to 4 GB in 2017. Smartphones and tablets are most common and a great majority of Indians have access to phones of some kind. Phones are cheap, and the competition among telecom companies has made calls and data still cheaper. Better and faster communications improve productivity and push up economic growth. They bring new sections of people into the economic mainstream and empower people. While these are positives, there are negatives also which should not be ignored. 

The new communication culture has changed many habits and attitudes of people. Radio and television are being replaced as sources of news and entertainment by handheld devices like the smartphone. Streaming services are gaining popularity. Reading habit, which was under threat, is even more endangered now. When the medium changes, the content and styles of presentation, too, change. Importantly, responses and attitudes to the content also change. There is a view that the faculties of critical scrutiny and questioning are declining, and the habit of passive acceptance is growing and spreading. The younger generation has been affected more than others. Many young people are dangerously addicted to the use of the new devices. Studies show academic performance and social lives are affected and some youngsters need counselling and psychiatric treatment to regain the sense of reality which is lost in the virtual world. Some hospitals have opened departments to treat such disorders. 

The problem is global and has persuaded even smartphone makers to take note of it and think of ways to counter it. Though it might seem that mobile companies gain by more and longer use of their devices by customers, the damage it does to the minds of people can only hurt them in the longer run. The biggest smartphone maker, Apple, has therefore come out with an app which helps to restrict the use of phones. The new facility, Digital Health, encourages greater control over the phone activities of children. A feature called Screen Time tracks the time spent on the phone and notifies the user about it. Google has also introduced a similar feature. The acceptance of the problem by all parties and stake-holders is a step in the direction of solving it. 

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Device addiction, a growing problem

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