Updated: December 16, 2021 3:15:12 pm
As the COVID-19 pandemic leads to growing dependence on smartphones, it is also negatively impacting relationships between parents and children and leading to more aggression in the latter, according to the latest findings by Vivo in its annual SwitchOff report. The report, in its third edition, notes that 66 per cent of parents admitted they were always on their phones, even when spending time with their children.
“74% of parents are saying they feel their relationship with their kids may be hurt because of smartphones and the way they are using their smartphones is a big number and frankly a big confession as well,” Yogendra Sriramula, Director, Brand Strategy, Vivo India told indianexpress.com, admitting that this high percentage did leave them surprised.
Worryingly, nearly 74 per cent of the parents admitted they were irritated when children asked for something while they themselves were immersed in their smartphones, which shows just how strong the addiction is in the case of adults.
“Parents are distracted, they get irritated when their kids ask for something because they are immersed in their phone. They are losing track of their surroundings and kids because they are so absorbed into their devices. This is again a very damaging finding, very stark numbers we are seeing,” Sriramula added.
While a majority of parents do feel guilty about this increased addiction towards their smartphones, and around 95 per cent wish to do better, it is clear that the family social way of relaxing has changed.
“It has been replaced by this very individualistic immersive device,” he said, adding that this dependence on devices was leading to behavioural changes in children such as increased aggression, and a negative impact on their social skills.
Based on the survey’s findings, children’s increasing dependence on screens also appears to be fueled by the parents themselves. For instance, 71 per cent of parents admitted that they give children access to screens when they themselves are busy with office work. And while that might seem a slightly more legitimate reason to buy some peace for parents, given the work from home conditions, around 64 per cent of parents resort to the same tactic when doing household work.
Another 36 per cent admitted they give children screen time when they want some ‘me time’ for themselves. Given the pandemic, and with schools yet to fully reopen, there’s no doubt that children are spending more time at home, and it is understandable that parents rely on the screen to keep them ‘distracted.’
But as the survey shows this increasing screen time is also impacting children negatively as nearly 90 per cent of parents feel that their children are showing more aggression. Around 84 per cent of parents felt that they found it difficult to convince children to take part in outdoor activities, while 90 per cent of the parents felt that their children were lacking in moral and social behaviour.
Another 85 per cent also felt that their children were finding it much more difficult to take part in social interactions with other kids.
The study also showcased the growing dependence on smartphones, which was evident in last year’s report as well, and how time spent on personal devices continues to stay high in the post COVID era. While in the pre-COVID era (before March 2020), the time spent was 4.94 hours on average, and it spiked to around 6.8 hours during COVID, it has only dipped slightly to 6.5 hours during the existing time period.
Overall there has been a 32 per cent increase in the time spent on smartphones from the pre-Covid period, according to the survey with users spending more time on streaming platforms, audio, gaming, etc.
Further, a whopping 94 per cent felt that the device was almost like a part of their body, one which they cannot be separated from at all costs. Only 46 per cent of the participants said they had voluntarily switched off their phones for a longer duration, which shows there is a long way to go before self-control kicks in.
The phone is also making its way into more social settings such as during dinner time, in the living room and even when sitting with the family. For most users, the phone is the last thing that they see before hitting the bed, and this behaviour was more prevalent among women, housewives and white-collared workers.
“The only silver lining in this is that 95 per cent of respondents accept that they would love to spend more uninterrupted time with their children. This realisation exists. And as long as that is there I think we can do better,” Sriramula stressed.
The survey had over 1100 consumers and was conducted in association with Cybermedia Research (CMR). It looked at parents in the age group of 25-45 in the cities of New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, and Pune.