The dangers of screen addiction
It is all about the silent war between the real world and the virtual world and the virtual world seems to be winning. From a seven-year old (and below) to a seventy-year old (and above), most of us have gone crazy after the smartphone. When you step on the road it is very common to see nearly everyone in the street lovingly caressing the screens of their mobile phones and totally engrossed in their own virtual world. Believe it or not, even the street beggars are nowadays seen with mobile phones. Many of us, mainly youngsters, tend to be more pre-occupied with the visual media such as social media, online games, and the devices that deliver them – smartphones, tablets, or other modern electronic devices.
There is no denying that technology has enhanced human capabilities in terms of what humans can do now compared to what they could a few decades ago. A smartphone or tablet can be a hugely productive tool. Communicating with our close ones who might be thousands of miles away has become very easy and convenient after the introduction of these tools. Some valuable articles, ahadith, health tips, ideas and videos/audios are shared through social media.
However, you should not forget that all these enchanting ‘state of the art’ communication devices that have captured your heart come in ‘package deals’. Included in these ‘package deals’ are also their negative attributes! One of them is that excessive attachment to these tools can create an addiction in you that can prove to be quite harmful. It can unconsciously or consciously interfere with your ‘ibadah (the obedience, submission, and devotion to Allah), your daily life, your work, your relationships and, most importantly, the tarbiyat (right upbringing) that you might be imparting to your children.
This addiction has already been given the name ‘nomophobia’, an abbreviation for ‘no-mobile-phone phobia’. This term was coined by YouGov, a UK based research organisation which was commissioned to look at the anxieties suffered by the mobile phone users. The study found that ‘53% of mobile phone users in Britain tend to be anxious when they lose their mobile phone, run out of battery or credit, or have no network coverage’.
That study was conducted in 2010. The situation today has likely deteriorated a great deal not only in Britain but throughout the world. However, there is one difference. The 2010 mobile users displayed anxiety when they lost their mobile phone, ran out of the battery or credit, or had no network coverage. The scenario today is quite different and the term ‘nomophobia’ is no more applicable. The present ‘screen addiction’ mania affects people while the smartphone is right in their hand, it is fully charged and the network coverage is there.
It is best described in the article “Smartphone Addiction” which says: “When you spend more time on social media or playing games than you do interacting with real people, or you can’t stop yourself from repeatedly checking texts, emails, news feeds, websites, or apps—even when it has negative consequences in your life—it may be time to reassess your technology use.” These in fact are clear signs that you might have already become the victim of the ‘screen addiction’, or you might be on the verge of it!
When talking about addiction you might feel that the people indicated here are ‘others’ and not you, because you think you are very safe from it. Unfortunately, people are very reluctant to admit their addictions. Then there are people who do not think that this kind of addiction is harmful.
Almost half of young Emiratis are addicted to the social media and/or phones and spend nearly 10 hours a day on social and other media, a new survey suggests. Ahmad Saeed Al Dhaheri, 23, an Emirati student said: “We were raised to respect technology and pay attention to our gadgets. I don’t think it’s a bad thing.”
Some researchers (Shambare, Rugimbana & Zhowa) claim that cell phones are “possibly the biggest non-drug addiction of the 21st century.”
While waiting in a dispensary to see a doctor or a dentist, or awaiting your turn at the barber’s, or waiting in your kitchen for tea to boil or for meat to get tender, waiting in the airport lounge, or waiting in your car for your kids to come out from school – the list seems to be endless- you never miss to seize any opportunity you might get to be in your virtual world, apart from all those long hours of your leisure time you spend in front of the screen.
Nowadays wherever people gather – whether in a wedding ceremony or a funeral; in the market place or a shopping mall; in a hospital or a social hall – they never forget to talk about what they might have received the previous night in WhatsApp (or any other social media). It might be a joke or a report of a bizarre event or some sensational piece of news.
A woman in Saudi Arabia was divorced by her husband minutes after their marriage as she ignored him and kept on chatting with her friends on mobile phone. Just imagine! A bride on her wedding night, one of the most important occasions in a person’s life, gives more importance to her screen than her groom, her hubby! The most disturbing part of this story is that she was a Muslim! Yes, the Ummāh of Allah’s beloved Nabi Muhammad (Allah’s peace be upon him) is also not free from it.
Our maqsad (purpose) of coming to this world is only to worship Allah the Sublime and High and we have to keep our hearts occupied with His Love and our attachment should be to Him alone. The things of this world, including the means of earning our daily bread, our properties, our farms, our means of travel and the various tools that we use are merely our needs, our necessities.
Unfortunately, some of us have turned these necessities into our maqsad. Amongst them, many people have been totally hooked by some of the technological tools, and obviously, the number one position amongst all these gadgets has been snatched, by a huge margin, by the smartphone!
Then there is another way you can harm your īmān through the use of these tools – by spreading stories that may be fictitious. Some of you derive great pleasure in forwarding to your groups in the social media some fascinating stories while you are not sure of their authenticity. Two such blatant lies that recently went viral were: 1. That a woman in the United States gave birth to 17 babies at once, thereby setting a new world record. 2. That is rained fish in Thailand.
Why get caught up with modern myths and legends? You also have responsibilities towards your close ones like your parents, siblings, spouses and your offspring. They are always your first priorities. Excessive time online often results in the neglect of these responsibilities. For instance, your parents might be desiring your attention but your entire concentration might be on the smarphone or any other electronic device, to such an extent that you might not even notice they need you.
A married Chinese woman’s addiction to internet nearly cost her access to her three young daughters – twins aged 13 and an 11-year-old – and ended up fighting a long, drawn-out battle to get more access.
The addiction has also proved fatal in some cases. A South Korean man died after reportedly playing an online computer game for 50 hours with few breaks.
Constant use (or rather, misuse) of the social media has also put numerous marriages on the rocks. You may think that your little online flirtations with your crush from high school or an old flame are just negligible things then you are wrong. It can have serious consequences in your life as well in the lives of those around you. It is also sinful to involve in such forbidden acts.
In the present ‘digital age’, our kids are not safe from the screen addiction. Many of them seem to have developed great liking for the video games. According to some parents in a latest poll, nearly half of our youngsters are addicted to their tablets and smartphones.
You have kids that are constantly, chronically asking you for access to the screen – to such a point that as a parent you are forced to give in to their demands. You end up buying gadgets that have video games or let them have access to the internet.
Some kids are persistently insisting on watching latest movies and you as a parent who is tired of their unceasing nagging, buy them the DVDs of these movies or let them watch these movies online on your PC or laptop.
At times, you give one of your electronic devices to your toddler who might have just started taking his first steps. When he gets busy with your iPad or tablet you get the freedom to engage yourself with your smartphone. Then you grab the opportunity to brag to your friends, “My Munna is so smart, he can use a smartphone.”
At that time the thought rarely comes to your mind that you are actually helping them develop the screen addiction – an addiction that can have serious aftereffects in their present as well as the future life. We really cannot impose any control on our kids because we ourselves are constantly in touch with the screen in one way or the other.
The movies and other contents shown in the movie screen and the TV screens are usually certified by the censor boards with regard to their suitability for audiences in terms of issues such as sex, violence, substance abuse, profanity, impudence or other types of mature content. Internet, however, seems to be totally free from such restrictions hence there is a big risk our kids may access porn stuff in the internet. There are cases where very young kids have become porn addicts.
May Allah the Sublime and High give us the understanding to limit our use of these electronic devices.
Allah Most High knows best.