Tackling phone addiction: 'Restricted mode' for youth coming soon

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Stop, swipe, and stare!

Youngsters today spend much of their valuable time on phones. Mobile apps, games and videos have taken priority over real physical activities, and the elder generation is obviously quite miffed.

"We always tell him that it's bad for his eyes but he says that some of his homework requires communicating with his classmates on phone," said a 60-year-old woman.

"They refuse to talk to us. They are lost in those videos and think we disturb them," a 70-year-old grandmother complained.

With the hope of protecting the younger generation from the harmful effects of over exposure to digital content, the government will be introducing "restricted mode" on many short video platforms this month.

The mode will allow users to manually set their screen time and restrict the usage time of these apps to 40 minutes a day, between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. However, parents can also set the maximum limit of two hours a day. If the quota is reached, a password will be required to unlock the app. Also, if the mode is activated, children will only have access to educational videos.

"Excessive exposure to digital products will harm teenagers' social abilities and delay their cognitive development. This 'restricted mode' will perform better if parents and teachers join the supervision process," said Tao Ran, director of Adolescent Psychological Development Base in China.

But the addiction goes beyond the young, even older people are often seen glued to their smartphones.

"I play with my phone even when I'm watching TV, or when I'm using my computer or iPad. I have to check it non-stop," a 60-year-old woman admitted.

"I use my phone for about eight hours every day. Sometimes to read news, and also to watch movies at night," a 50-year-old man confessed.

Although the consequences of excessive phone usage are less visible than other addictive behaviors, experts warn it's time to set healthy limits.

"In 2018, the World Health Organization recognized 'gaming disorder' as a mental health disease," Tao explained.

Experts also say that people should spend their free time by engaging in physical activities like sports to strike a proper balance between the real and virtual worlds.