What happens when 5 students spend 8 hours without the Internet?

Kids too attached to smartphones? Can't get through the day without tweeting? SEOW YUN RONG challenges several young people to stay away from technology for eight hours

Is your child a slave to technology?

Growing up with tiny gadgets at their fingertips, a young person of today is likely to spend more time consuming media than sleeping in one day.

According to a 2015 study by Common Sense Media, a US non-profit group that helps children, parents and educators navigate the world of media and technology, teens aged 13 to 18 spend an average of nine hours a day consuming media for enjoyment, such as watching shows, playing games, accessing social media and chatting via video.

Tweens aged six to 12 are reported to spend six hours on media a day.

Another study of 1,060 teenagers by the Pew Research Center in the US found that one in four says he or she is "almost constantly" online.

The prevalence of technology usage among teens was the basis of a recent experiment undertaken by Russian child psychologist Yekaterina Murashova.

She postulated that young people were "incapable of finding ways to keep themselves busy, and are completely unfamiliar with the idea of the world of their imagination".

To test her theory, she got 68 teenagers, aged 12 to 18, to go without technology for eight hours. No television, computers, handheld games or smartphones.

Only three teens - two boys and one girl - managed to complete the experiment.

Three participants reportedly had suicidal thoughts, five experienced intense panic attacks, 27 experienced symptoms such as abdominal pain, hot flushes, sweating and nausea, and almost all participants experienced feelings of fear and anxiety.

The New Paper on Sunday conducted an informal experiment. Five students aged nine to 19 were told to spend eight hours without the Internet and gadgets such as TV or video game consoles.

By the halfway mark, all the participants had run out of things to do and had strong urges to look at their devices. 

Some even imagined they could feel their phones vibrating.

Dr Carol Balhetchet, a clinical psychologist and senior director for youth services at the Singapore Children's Society, says children and teenagers are drawn to modern technology.


She says: "Children love the vibrant colours and interactivity of technology where everything is exciting and moves very quickly.

"They were born into this new age. This is their world and it feels normal for them to have gadgets and devices around - it's like waking up and eating bread every day."

Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness, also agrees that being born into the digital age plays a huge part on their dependence on digital devices.

He says: "In this age, the main way of communication is through devices.

"These children grew up in an era of modern technology so they don't know of any alternatives to get by. For adults, we can still communicate through letters or meeting up, but they are so used to using Whatsapp and social media."

He adds that humans tend to have transitional objects; items that give us a sense of security to provide psychological comfort, such as blankets or toys for children.

However, now that the digital age has taken over, the Internet and digital devices have become children's transitional objects.

Dr Lim says: "When a three- to four-year-old grows up with a phone or smart device, it gives him or her a sense of security. So once it's taken away, the child will start to feel anxious."