How safe is your child with a smartphone? Psychologist warns parents in Seychelles to be cautious
By the time most children become teenagers, they can text almost as fast as they can talk and spend most of their waking hours on their mobiles. (Jhaymesisviphotography/Flickr)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Seychelles is amongst many developing countries that have embraced the age of technology, but a local psychologist says the surge in the use of smart devices and smartphones in Seychelles should be a cause of concern for parents.
The legislature in Taiwan recently passed a law requiring parents to completely stop their children under two years of age from using "electronic products" such as smartphones, tablets, video games and even televisions, arguing that it had a detrimental effect on young children’s development.
The law also states that parents should limit electronic product use among children under the age of 18. China, a country with an estimated 24 million young ‘web addicts’ also recently passed laws to prevent children from becoming addicted to video games.
A glimpse on social networks in the Seychelles confirms that many islanders, particularly the younger generations, have social media accounts while Seychelles social groups on Facebook attract as many as 17,000 members.
The increased internet and social media penetration in Seychelles is both a good thing and a bad thing says Dolores Fabien, a psychologist from the National Council for Children (NCC).
|Youngsters all over the world have helped to make the word 'selfie' the Oxford Dictionaries' Word of the Year for 2013 (Pixabay) Photo license: CC-BY|
NCC has been an active advocate for the children’s rights in the Indian Ocean state and they are often called upon to address issues relating to the protection of children.
“If adults are using these technologies for professional development and also to socialize, it is a good medium to do so. Technology allows you to go beyond your own imagination through the use of gadgets such as games,” says Fabien.
In the past two years, the psychologist told SNA the organisation has seen an increase in parents complaining about the use of technology at home and the interpersonal family communication which has been barred by these gadgets.
“Before that, it was difficult to do research and downloading was expensive, now it is not so. But parents have to put a limit on the use of phones for activities such as chatting on the different applications,” says Fabien, who adds that children on the internet and social media might be putting themselves in danger unknowingly, which can lead to grooming by paedophiles or even worse scenarios.
“Maintaining a good relationship with your children is important so that they can come to you as parents for advice if they are not sure about anything,” says Fabien. She added that parents should also be encouraged to “control and prevent access to adult TV channels and internet pages”.
A growing audience
In Seychelles, a recent census from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that cellular mobile phones have increased from more than 91 thousand in 2008 to over 142 thousand by 2012 - that’s around 1.5 devices per person in the 115-island archipelago of some 90,000 people.
|Secondary school children assist in the ceremonial launching of the undersea fibre optic cable in the Seychelles in 2012, which brought about the huge change in the country’s ICT scene (Mervyn Marie) Photo License: CC BY|
Moreover, the nation-wide census also showed that in 2012, many of the islanders had access to internet facilities via their phones (14,000) or computers (18,000).
A relatively high number of the inhabitants of Seychelles in that same year had access to cable TV.
The recent introduction of other companies promising faster internet access and more channels have further pushed these numbers to a higher level.
Rachel, 32, told SNA that all of the three members of her family have phones. “My daughter, who is fifteen, has a smartphone with internet while my husband and I prefer the simple models, just to make calls and short messages.”
The couple also has two televisions with access to various channels from a local satellite television network.
Introduced in Seychelles in 1996, the use of internet in the Indian Ocean Island is still very low compared to more populated countries in the African region.
Neighbouring South Africa tops the list as countries with most daily internet users (over 68 per cent of its population).
It surpasses most other countries in the number of its population owing a cell phone although a higher proportion of people in Kenya use their phones to make or receive payments.