A PUNDIT and educator is warning parents to be on the lookout for danger signs of technology addiction in children, especially “NoMo phobia,” which in extreme cases can lead to irrational and violent behaviour.
Pundit Shiva Maharaj, who is also a primary school teacher and lecturer at the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), pointed to the recent incident in which a 15-year-old schoolboy was detained by police after his mother was chopped at their Carapichaima home.
Hours before the chopping, the woman reportedly took away her son’s cellphone as punishment for him spending too much time on it rather than doing his schoolwork.
NoMo Phobia, Maharaj said, is an abbreviation for “No-Mobile-Phone Phobia” and is considered an anxiety disorder caused by the fear of being separated from one’s mobile phone.
An initial study on the topic as far back as 2010 revealed that over 58 per cent of mobile users in Britain get anxious when they lose their mobile phone, run out of battery or credit, or have no network coverage.
The earlier children are introduced to mobile technology, Maharaj said, the more their brains will be structurally modified and this could potentially trigger a lifelong addiction.
Maharaj said author Simon Sinek advocates that like all other addictions, technology addiction will cost people their relationships, time and money. By the time children are teenagers they could be suffering from severe cases of NoMo Phobia.
Maharaj believes the Carapichaima schoolboy could be suffering from some form of anxiety disorder and possibly NoMo phobia, and is in need of specific counselling aimed at treating technology-addiction issues.
“Parents and caregivers often encourage their children to spend countless hours online on their mobile phones, apps and social media. Similar restrictions to those enforced for alcohol and cigarettes should also be implemented to restrict mobile phone use among underage children.
“What can we do to save our children and, by extension, our future? There is no escaping, technology is here to stay. It is a great power that we utilise to optimise our daily functions. However, with great power comes great responsibility,” Maharaj said.
The boy has since been released without charge by police and is said to be undergoing counselling. What type of counselling and by whom, is not known. The injured woman remains warded at San Fernando General Hospital.
Maharaj, who is also a cybersafety trainer, is the brains behind two companies which count among their core functions providing internationally approved digital citizenship programmes to empower people, including children, in the proper use of technology.
“Our programmes are developmental and age-appropriate for pre-school, primary and secondary school students. Students learn how to be a good digital citizen, while parents and educators simultaneously get the tools they needed to support the holistic development of their children,” Maharaj said.