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Virtual ac(ex)cess

For several hours during days and nights, preteens, teens, and adults of both genders in Kashmir are engrossed into smartphones, the rectangular gadgets that have taken over all lives entangling them in the worst possible mess. No! this is not a discussion about their pros and cons. We all know that we are virtually connected and can see and hear anyone from any part of the globe using these gadgets. But is it a connection or an entanglement? This question requires our immediate attention as our future –this “smartphone generation”– is literally losing itself. Kashmir may have had weak internet for nearly a year now but howsoever it has been, it has not stopped people from wasting countless hours of their valuable time to things they could easily avoid, things that are not benefiting them at all. Researchers across the world have proven without an iota of doubt how destructive the smartphone addiction can be. A 2016 report published in Frontiers in Psychiatry suggests using the DSM-5 criteria for compulsive gambling and substance abuse to measure problematic smartphone use. The report evaluated smartphone addiction as a behavioral disorder. It pointed out a list of potential symptoms that might include conscious use in prohibited contexts or potentially dangerous situations (e.g. texting while driving), excessive use that causes conflicts with family; withdrawing from family or shared events in favour of smartphone use, negative effects on school, family, social, or emotional functioning, continued excessive use despite negative effects, impulsive, frequent, constant checking of phone, even in short bursts (feels strong need to check every few minutes), insomnia or sleep disturbances related to frequent checking, excessive urgency or need to be connected, increase in use to achieve satisfaction or counteract dysphoric (sad) mood, need to respond immediately to messages and alerts, increased anxiety and/or irritability if phone is not accessible, feelings of unease when unable to use the phone. Besides, smartphone addiction also has negative consequences on a family relationship. In addition, it also caused mood fluctuation and mood disorder among high-school students. These could lead to social problems. Some parents use smartphones to keep their children silent without concerning about its impacts. Kids become so addicted to them that they refuse to be fed unless there is a jingle going on these gadgets. Rather than acknowledging the negative consequences of the smartphone so they can explain the same to their children properly, parents are willingly plunging their kids into this abyss by giving in to their demands of buying them costly smartphones which, with unlimited internet facility nowadays, prove to be a bane in the long run. Children find themselves less attached, and are not able to involve themselves in family, school and community. Mass media should pay attention to this issue by providing information about the consequences of smartphone usage through TV programs, radio, games, cartoons, movies, and TV series.