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Proyashi Barua, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, October 30, 2012
From time immemorial visionaries in the field of education have broadly maintained that the real worth of academics is always measured in real life settings and practical application.

“For this, a student cannot merely assimilate and reproduce information. Instead, he/she should analyse, examine and question the relevance of theories and concepts in the context of the complex and constantly changing dynamics of real world challenges. For instance, along with theoretical knowledge, a good engineer should have insight and acumen to tackle an existing engineering challenge through an innovative and contemporary approach,” says Ashish Luthra, a psychological counsellor and wellness therapist. According to Luthra, analysis and reflection stem from an innate cognitive process, which is concentration. “Today, most students who come to me for counselling have one problem in common — lack of concentration. And in nearly 90% of the cases concentration and attention deficit is attributed to obsession with technical gadgets,” he reveals. 

Agreeing to this, SL Malik, professor, anthropology department, Delhi University, says, “The obsession goes beyond the ubiquitous cellphone. Today, students not only take the liberty of sending and receiving text messages while in class. Many of them stealthily connect to their iPhones, iPads and iPods while lectures are on.”

A Delhi-based clinical and de addiction counsellor, Neil Paul, draws attention to another alarming reality of gadget addiction. “Many students compete with their classmates and peers in terms of owning the latest and most sophisticated gadgets. Sadly enough, these gadgets are becoming status symbols among them. Needless to say, among other things, this translates to unnecessary and unfair economic pressure on parents and is the cause of many a child-parent conflict,” says Paul. 

Addiction to gadgets is not just restricted to college students. Even school children are prey to this problem. Paul observes that while not many children have cellphones, a majority of them, particularly in the metropolitan cities, have regular access to the internet as they either have a personal computer or laptop at home. “Addiction at the school-going stage is particularly dangerous. It is in this stage of life when children develop their interpersonal skills, sense of social belonging and teamwork. Addiction and obsession with technical gadgets often results in exclusion from group activities and teamwork and hence is detrimental to the growth and development of the child.

Also, in extreme cases, this obsession can seriously mar the innate capacity of a child to learn. This is not just because gadgets interfere with concentration. It is important to understand that childhood is the time when motor skills are developed. Unfortunately, most children today do not enjoy making little things with their hands simply because they are so fascinated creating virtual things (at the click of a button) online,” explains Luthra.  
   
Counsellors, academicians and parents agree that while both school and college-going children need to be conversant with technology in order to leverage it as a healthy aid for learning and socialising, they should not be dependent on them. “Teachers on their part should try and engage students in projects and activities that gauge their creative, motor, organisational and teamwork skills. Homework and holiday assignments should focus on gauging the originality of thought and be such that they can be done without any technical aid. Parents on their part should encourage children to play interactive games like carom, ludo and chess and analyse and discuss affairs of national and topical importance. Most importantly, they should involve children in activities that require their organisational and motor skills. Running errands, gardening and arranging picnics and get-togethers with friends are some examples," says Jyoti Bhambri, mother of two children aged 18 and seven.

Truths of cyber addiction
The National Life Skills Education and School Wellness Programme, conducted by Expressions India, outlines the pitfalls of cyber addiction 
* Cyber addiction can make one socially dysfunctional 
* Extreme addiction can even interfere with everyday routines in terms of eating, sleeping and self hygiene
* A sudden breaking away from the addiction can lead to serious withdrawal symptoms
* Cyber addiction can create a disconnect between the real and virtual self

Remedies: 
* Every school should have guidelines for online conduct and appropriate use of gadgets
* Students should be apprised about the dangers of cyber crime through orientation sessions