Wireless Mobile Devices are Weapons of Mass Distraction


The Consumers Association of Penang urges parents to monitor and limit children’s time spent on Wireless Mobile Devices (WMD) which are ubiquitous and their use obsessive. These devices like smartphones, tablets, phablets, notebooks or other digital devices are weapons of mass distraction because of their addictive nature, multifunctionality, mobility and omnipresence. WMDs are stuck to us 24/7 – in our pockets or handbags while we are awake, and beside our beds while we sleep.

The use of WMD is so widespread today that 38% of American under 2 are using them for watching videos, playing games and other media-related purposes. By the age of 8, 78% of them would have a WMD. These devices can put social media, videos, games, movies and TV shows instantly within reach. Their content includes pornography, violent and other inappropriate materials all within easy access in private, obscured from parental supervision.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has advised parents to limit their children’s time in front of screens, which it says may lead to attention problems, exposure to inappropriate content and obesity.

Smart phones can disrupt children’s sleep patterns. In a recent survey, 4 out of 5 smartphone-owning teens sleep with their phone on or by their beds in case they got a text. Sleep is especially important for growing kids.

WMD work by using radio waves. That’s radiation and its not advisable for young children to be exposed at a very young age.

For teenagers, using the handphone when driving is a huge risk. In one survey in the US, more than half of teens aged 16-17 admit that they have talked on a handphone while driving. Similarly one-third of them texted while driving. 28% of all traffic accidents in the US are caused by drivers using a phone to text or call.

WMD and the social media also exposes children to cyber bullying, which is social harassment via text, instant messaging, or other social media. Some cases resulted in suicides. Many smartphones have a “location sharing” feature, which could raise concerns about people stalking kids as they go from place to place.

According to studies, overuse of such devices can have many psychological, behavioural and neurological side effects.

WMDs are powerful and mind-altering. Our brain is sensitive to reprogramming and heavy WMD usage can rewire and alter our minds. Among its drastic effects, according to research:

• Diminishes depth of thinking – we become shallow thinkers and less intelligent beings.

• Distracts and disrupts concentration – their addictive nature can leave you with an attention span of 9 seconds – the same as a goldfish(!).

• Changes our reading behaviour – we become cursory readers, browsing instead of actually reading which involves deep brain processing for critical thinking, imagination and reflection.

• Promotes the habit of multitasking – multitaskers are less able to concentrate and focus on a particular task. They are less patient, less creative, less productive and less able to make good decisions than those who do one thing at a time. Multitasking is also addictive and causes stress.

In Britain, it was reported last year that children as young as 4 are becoming so addicted to smartphones and iPads that they require psychological treatment.

WMDs are clearly threatening the quality of our existence, influencing the way we think and act, and changing who we are, as individuals and society. To minimise the adverse impacts of digital media on our lives, it is imperative that we learn to limit its use and educate our tech-savvy young on its potentially damaging effects.

Letter to the Editor, 4 March 2014