Medical professionals in the UAE are warning that addiction to smartphones and technology among young people can be as powerful as addiction to gambling and drugs, with its own host of health and psychological problems.
In many developed nations – the UAE included – it isn’t uncommon to see young children on a tablet or smartphone, with their parents besides them seemingly oblivious to any potential health risks.
“Mental health risks of increasing addiction to technology are clear and present,” said Dr Binu George, Consultant Paediatrician (paediatric neurodevelopment and neurodisability) at King’s College Hospital London Medical and Surgical Centre in Abu Dhabi. “Excessive access to digital media and especially online gaming has in fact given rise to new mental health conditions. …a couple of these new conditions are called Problematic Internet Use Disorder and Internet Gaming Disorder.”
According to Dr George, studies have shown that ”problematic” internet use is extremely widespread among young people.
“The prevalence of ‘problematic’ internet use among children and adolescents is between 4 per cent and 8 per cent, and up to 8.5 per cent of US youth 8 to 18 meet the criteria for internet gaming disorder,” he said.
Additionally, Dr George recommends discouraging young people from having technology in their bedrooms, to slot social media-free family time, and to encourage communication between parents and young people about overuse of technology.