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 Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 32  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 1472-1478

Parents' perception towards the effect of mobile and internet use on their children's health


1 Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Menoufia University, Menoufia Governorate, Egypt
2 Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, Menoufia University, Menoufia Governorate, Egypt
3 Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Menoufia University, Menoufia Governorate, Egypt
4 Department of Family Medicine, Samnoud Health Administration, El Gharbiya Governorate, Egypt

Date of Submission27-Jun-2018
Date of Decision06-Aug-2018
Date of Acceptance13-Aug-2018
Date of Web Publication31-Dec-2019

Correspondence Address:
Ahmed A Mashal
Meet Habib Village, Samnoud City, El Gharbiya Governorate 31623
Egypt
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/mmj.mmj_203_18

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  Abstract 


Objective
The aim of this study was to identify parents' perception towards the effect of internet use on their children health.
Background
The consequences of using internet sources at a young age are currently being studied comprehensively across the different parts of the world, as surfing the web had been found to have its pros and cons. It gives users independence, provides opportunities for global learning, and creates a platform for initiating social change. In contrast, it increase the likelihood of engaging in high risk and socially destructive behaviors. Parents recognize the significance of adopting technology in order to function in the 21st century.
Participants and methods
A cross-sectional study was conducted in a rural area where nearly 3000 primary school children were distributed in four main schools. Cluster sampling was carried out, and one school was chosen for the study with 1000 participants. A questionnaire was formulated for this purpose and underwent validity and reliability assessments. The questionnaire was given to the students' parents to answer it, registering their answers in the questionnaire form.
Results
The mean age of the children was 9.4 ± 1.9 years. Girls comprised 50.2% and boys comprised 49.8%. Children used mobiles and the internet at a younger age, starting from 4 years. Games were the types of programs mostly used. Most of the parents (43.4%) thought that the Internet had bad effects that outweighed positive effects, and (49.1%) most parents were worried about their children's use of the Internet.
Conclusion
Most parents thought that the Internet had bad effects, and they were worried about their children's use of the Internet.

Keywords: children, health, internet, media, mobile


How to cite this article:
Hegazy NN, Elshafie AM, Alghalban YA, Mashal AA. Parents' perception towards the effect of mobile and internet use on their children's health. Menoufia Med J 2019;32:1472-8

How to cite this URL:
Hegazy NN, Elshafie AM, Alghalban YA, Mashal AA. Parents' perception towards the effect of mobile and internet use on their children's health. Menoufia Med J [serial online] 2019 [cited 2020 Apr 4];32:1472-8. Available from: http://www.mmj.eg.net/text.asp?2019/32/4/1472/274233




  Introduction Top


The current school age children are often categorized as the 'Internet Generation'. They are the first to experience a world full of information and communication technology. Interactive media allow information sharing and provide an engaging digital environment that becomes highly personalized [1]. Children use mobile devices to play games, watch videos, communicate, take pictures, and access applications [2].

An international study was conducted in five countries including Egypt in 2012, which showed that children's mobile phone behavior, among 8–18-year-old participants, had showed that 91% of children had a mobile phone, 54% of children accessed the Internet via mobile and 65% of Egyptian parents set rules for their children's mobile phone use [3]. Past research suggests that too much screen time may be associated with a host of negative outcomes for children [4].Total daily screen time is a metric of summed exposure to devices capable of displaying video content (e.g., smartphones, tablets, computers, TVs, and video game consoles). It was noted that it had risen for children who were 8–18 years old, from five to roughly seven and a half hours since 1999, far exceeding the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation of 2 h or less [5],[6]. Thus there was a rising parental concern about exposure to excessive screen time in childhood.

To the best of the authors' knowledge, no previous research has been conducted in the age group of 6–12 years in Egypt on parent's awareness of the risks of Internet use to their children.

In the present study, the aim was to better understand how parents perceived the effects of using the mobile and the Internet on their children's health.


  Participants and Methods Top


This was a cross-sectional study conducted in the context of the time frame of 14 months (starting from first of January 2017 to the end of February 2018) in a rural area of El Gharbyia Governorate.

The study was approved by the ethical committee of the Faculty of Medicine, Menoufia University. All participants of the study were volunteers. Informed written consent was obtained from all the participants in the study after an explanation of the purposes of this study. It was emphasized that all data collected were strictly confidential and that the data were used for scientific purposes only.

Nearly 3000 primary school children are present in this village, distributed in four main schools. Cluster sampling was carried out, and one school was chosen for the study, where the total number of studied students was 1000 (ages ranging from 6 to 12 years). The questionnaire was given to the students' parents to answer it, registering their answers in the questionnaire form.

Inclusion criteria were parents' acceptance to participate in the study and students age (6–12 years old) at the time of data collection.

Exclusion criteria were students who were absent at the time of data collection and parents who refused to accept or complete the questionnaire form.

The questionnaire was given to the students' parents to answer it, registering their answers in the questionnaire form.

This was a specially designed questionnaire that included the following five parts:

  1. The first part: family and socioeconomic data including ten questions with regard to mother's age, mother's work, father's work, educational level of both the mother and the father, family size, crowding index, family income, computer use, sewage withdrawal, and refuse withdrawal. Socioeconomic standard was determined according to the scoring system of Fahmy et al. [7] scoring system (a high level was indicated as at least 70%, a medium level as 40 to less than 70%, and a low level as less than 40%)
  2. The second part: data about the child and electronic means including thirteen questions with regard to the child's sex, age, number of children in the family, data about electronic means (had a private mobile, had other modern means, type of means, age of the child at the first use of mobile, child's attachment to means, number of hours using these means, types of used mobile programs and if means used as educational tools), children's hobbies and children's friends
  3. The third part: children's internet usage data including 22 questions with regard to parents' permission of children's internet use at a young age, age of children at first internet use parents putting down rules for children's use of the internet, parents' interest in children's online education, means used by children to access to the Internet, place where children use the internet, rate and number of hours of the child's internet use in school days and vacation days, types of sites used by children and competence of these sites with the child's age, use of the Internet as an educational tool, child uses the internet for socialization, child's knowledge of internet use, parents control of children's internet use, comparison between children's ability and parents ability for internet use, and parents supporting the presence of a web browser for children
  4. The fourth part: positive effects of means data including seven questions with regard to the child's mind being activated, improved child's skills, increased child's courage and self-confidence, improved child's educational level, improved child's intelligence, increased child's data and imagination
  5. The fifth part: This included 25 questions with regard to the bad effects of means data, such as wasted time, reduced child's activity, decreased child's imagination, viewed content did not match with child's age, affected child's behavior, child became violent, affected child's hobbies, affected child interactions with others, child became isolated, affected child's concentration, affected child's school achievement, affected child's health, affected child's food intake, child became obese, decreased child's food intake, affected child's eyes, child had headache, child had back aches, child had finger tingling, affected child's ears, child became addicted to the Internet, affected child's sleep, affected child's sexual behavior, and parents were worried about their children's use of means.


A pilot study was conducted on 50 primary students' parents (not included in the final results of the study) in order to evaluate the adequacy of the study tools, to determine the time needed for filling the questionnaire and to explore the potential obstacles and difficulties.

Validity of the questionnaire was determined by using Cronbach's α test, which was 0.408 from the preliminary questionnaire having 32 questions; modifications were required to delete two questions that were quite irrelevant, but, if deleted, Cronbach's α value was elevated to be significant (0.747).

Statistical methodology

Statistical analysis of the study was conducted by using the software SPSS version 20 on an IBM-compatible computer (statistical package for the social sciences, 2011; SPSS Inc., Chicago, Illinois, USA).

Two types of statistics were carried out:

  1. Descriptive statistics: in which quantitative data were presented in the form of mean, SD, and range, and qualitative data were presented in the form of numbers (N) and percentages (%)
  2. Analytical statistics: χ2-test was used to study the association between two qualitative variables.


P value of greater than 0.05 was considered not statistically significant, P value of less than or equal to 0.05 was considered statistically significant, and P value of less than or equal to 0.001 was considered statistically highly significant.


  Results Top


About 13.2% of the children had a private mobile while 88.2% had other means. Tablets and iPad were the most common types of means (55.5%). Some of the studied children started using the Internet at a very young age (4 years).

More than half of the children were mildly attached to modern means (52.1%) while 32% were very attached to means. Number of hours spent were variable among children, wherein 24.9% spent 1 h, and 10.7% had spent more than 5 h per day. About 24.9% of the children were using only games in the electronic means, while 42.9% of children used multiple programs. Only 9.1% of children had used means as an educational tool [Table 1].
Table 1: Data about electronic means

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Most of the parents (47.6%) allowed their children to use the Internet at a young age with restrictions, 64.1% of parents enforced rules on their children's use of the Internet and 60.2% of parents were interested in their children going online. Using the mobile was the most common method of children accessing the internet (43.1%); 84.2% of children accessed the internet at home and (56.9%) used the Internet daily. Most children used the Internet for 1 h (55.3%). Cartoon sites were the most common sites used (40.3%). Only 30.2% of parents thought they totally controlled their children's use of the Internet. Most parents (66.1%) supported the presence of a specific web browser for children [Table 2].
Table 2: Data about child's internet use

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Positive effects of the internet were as follows: activated the child's mind (85.4%), improved children's skills (85.7%), increased children's courage (78.4%), improved educational level (67.4%), increased children's intelligence (74.1%), increased children's data (78.6%) and (83.7%) increased children's imagination [Table 3].
Table 3: Positive effects of the Internet

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Negative psychosocial effects of the Internet were classified according to the rate of internet use; 553 children did not use the Internet daily, and 447 children used the Internet daily [Table 4].
Table 4: Negative psychosocial effects of the Internet

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Negative physical effects of the Internet were classified according to the rate of internet use; 553 children did not use the Internet daily, and 447 children used the Internet daily [Table 5].
Table 5: Negative physical effects of the Internet

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  Discussion Top


The current study confirmed that the prevalence of mobile phone use by children was widespread. About 13.2% of children had a private mobile phone and 39% had a shared mobile phone. Most of the children had other modern means, representing 82.2%. This study was in agreement with Common Sense Media's nationwide survey, wherein 72% of children aged 0–8 years had used a mobile device in 2013, up from 38% in 2011. Even more dramatic was the increase in the use by children less than 2 years old (38%) in 2013, up from (10%) in 2011 [4].

As regards age of use of mobile, some of the studied children started using the Internet at a very young age (4 years). This study was in contrast with the USA; most children started using mobile devices in their first year of life, and use was enabled by parents who gave children a device to use and to keep. Three of four parents gave children a mobile device when doing chores to keep them calm, one of four to put children to sleep, twice the rates reported in a 2013 Northwestern University national survey [8].

On average, children had their first smartphones around the age of 10 years, according to the research firm, down from the age of 12 years in 2012. For some children, smartphone ownership started even sooner, including second graders as young as 7 years old, according to internet safety experts [9].

This study found that 24.9% of children used modern means for 1 h, 34% spent 1–2 h and 10.7% spent more than 5 h per day. Parents should limit the total amount of entertainment screen time to less than 1–2 h per day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations 2016 [10].

Children's attachment to means was variable; 32% were very attached while 52.1% were mildly attached. Top activities were those involving games (23.9%), cartoons (19.7%), and the Internet (10.8%) and (42.9%) used multiple programs. Only 9.1% of children used means as an educational means. About 66.8% of children had hobbies and 79.5% had friends. As regards the Internet, 47.6% of parents allowed their children to use the Internet with restrictions and 64.1% put down rules for their children's use of the Internet. The mobile was the most commonly used method by children to access the Internet (43.1%), while 12.3% used the computer to go online, and 29.7% used tablets or iPad. This study was in contrast with findings in Europe, wherein 58% of children accessed the Internet via a personal computer, one third (32%) went online through their television set, around another third went online via a mobile phone (31%) and (26%) accessed the Internet via a games console [5].

Most of the children (84.2%) used the Internet at home, 1.5% used the Internet with relatives, 1.2% used the Internet with friends and 7.5% used the Internet at multiple sites. This study was in agreement with findings in Europe, wherein 87% of children used the Internet at home, 49% used the Internet in their bedroom and 38% used the Internet elsewhere only at home [5].

Most of the children (56.9%) used the Internet daily, 31% used the Internet weekly, 2% used the Internet monthly and (5.8%) used it less often. This study was in contrast with the findings in Europe, wherein 70% went online daily or almost daily, 26% used the Internet once or twice a week and 4% went online less often [5].

Most of the children used the Internet for 1 h (55.3%), 31% used it for 1–2 h and 2% used it for more than 5 h per day. This study was in contrast with the findings in Europe, wherein the average time spent online by 9–16-year olds was around an hour and a half per day (88 min). Gender differences in time spent online were small (boys went online for an average of 6 min/day more than girls) [5].

As regards parents' control of their child's internet use, 30.2% thought that they had total control of their child's internet use, 51.8% thought that they had some control of their child's internet use and 7.5% thought that there were no control. Most of the parents supported the presence of a child-specific browser to be used when they go online. As regards positive effects of the Internet, this study was in agreement with findings in the USA, wherein social media enhanced access to valuable support networks, which may be particularly helpful for patients with ongoing illnesses, conditions or disabilities [11].

Moreover, social media may be used to enhance wellness and promote healthy behaviors, such as smoking cessation and balanced nutrition [12].

Negative effects of modern means were classified into psychosocial and physical effects. As regards psychosocial bad effects, this study was in agreement with the findings in the USA, wherein media use around or after bedtime disrupted sleep and negatively affected school performance [13]. As regards physical bad effects, this study was in agreement with the findings in the USA, wherein having a TV in the bedroom continues to be associated with the risk of obesity [13].

Furthermore, children were at greater risk of sleep disturbances due to exposure to light (particularly blue light), and activity from screens before bed affects melatonin levels and can delay or disrupt sleep [14].

The study limitations were noncompliance, misunderstanding of how to fill the questionnaire form, delay in submitting questionnaires, the questionnaire being forgotten by students and the students taking the importance of the study lightly, but all these difficulties were overcome by using proper communication skills.

The strengths of this study were the large sample size (1000 students' parents) and the homogeneous population.

On the basis of the findings of the current study, the following recommendation was suggested: physicians and parents should work together to achieve perfect use of the media by children.


  Conclusion Top


The study concluded that the use of means among children was widespread.

The effects of media use depended on multiple factors: type of media, time of media use and the characteristics of the individual child. Most of the parents allowed their children to use the Internet at a young age. Most of the parents thought that the Internet's bad effects outweighed the positive effects. Most of the parents were worried about their children's internet use.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

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    Tables

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5]



 

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