For some years now, technology has been integrally installed in our daily lives. Our children and adolescents are being educated in a digital society surrounded by computers, mobiles or tablets and their parents are worried about the consequences of a technological invasion like the one we are experiencing.
How does technology affect the development of children’s minds?
The sad reality is that, nowadays, babies learn to unlock their mobile rather than to add, build sentences or dress independently. They learn to be distracted with amazing ease.
As parents, we use this resource on multiple occasions. If we go out to dinner, we go to enjoy a concert or we take our children to the hairdresser; mobile is the way for them to be entertained and not disturb. Play a game or a YouTube video and the child disappears.
This has innumerable consequences for the development of children, but we want to emphasize two.
Distraction instead of tolerance for frustration or effort
The human mind is very comfortable. It is always governed by the law of least effort. If you find shortcuts, data you can forget, or efforts to save yourself, you will always take them.
The child’s brain does not like to get frustrated and it will never work out if it is not through the mediation of an adult.
There are countless situations in which parents require the attention and effort of the child so that it reaches a necessary autonomy.
Let’s take a simple example: learn to eat with a plate and cutlery. This simple task that we all have so automated took a lot of effort when we were little. Our parents had to sit with us day after day, creating a habit that brought frustrations, blemishes, and difficulties.
Many times we want to save time and effort and give them the food ourselves. However, that frustration is part of the trial-and-error learning process that will create the habit and make you independent.
However, if when the child has to make an effort to get it right and put the food in his mouth, we distract him with a mobile video, his brain is scattered. Without realizing it, we are creating the mental association that every time a situation arises in which to strive it will not be necessary to do it, there will be a distraction.
Our children can’t maintain sustained attention if we use these mechanisms frequently. The great paradox is that we want them to concentrate while we distract them with screens.
The gradual disappearance of symbolic games
When children are young they fantasize about building the world and creating stories in their heads. That way they can imagine themselves as teachers, firefighters, singers or doctors.
They must take a piece of cardboard and pretend that it is a magic wand, that they paint a dragon on a leaf and pretend to defeat it.
If you listen to 3-year-olds play alone (or with their non-interactive toys) you will see exactly what “symbolic play” means. It supposes being able to use the imagination and symbolism in what surrounds us; it is always a unique and wonderful creation of children’s minds.
Obviously, we are not talking about games whose direct purpose is educational, it is not about learning and internalizing rules, but about something very important and that will determine their cognitive development: the ability to think, to symbolize the world, to understand each other with a common language.
That the child can understand and internalize the reality that surrounds him depends, in part, on his being able to enjoy this type of creative play.
Movies, video games or apps do not allow children to create anything of their own. They can interact, they can be entertaining, or even educational, but they shouldn’t take up most of your leisure time.
As we have said before, the brain, in general, is lazy and if it can save the effort it will. Therefore, you will always choose a “get it all done” screen over the effort of a game where you have to make up the stories yourself. However, now we know the great importance of those inventions and fantasies that he develops when he plays.
Consequences of early abuse of technologies
In the long term, when children enter pre-adolescence, the abuse of screens during cognitive development usually means that they have no hobbies, are not particularly interested in anything, and are unable to get bored.
They need their dose of images, mobile, YouTube or Instagram. They are less creative, have fewer concerns, and sometimes the most serious ones, they have failed to symbolize the world in their minds.
Many psychologists associate early use of technology with attention deficits and with the appearance of emotional problems in adolescence.
Children must learn to get bored, to entertain themselves (with nothing, being with themselves), to wait, to maintain their attention, to get frustrated and to choose. Aspects that a mobile or tablet does not provide you.
But of course, we are in society, our babies grow up, they go to school and before reaching the institute their friends already have mobile phones. They soon start to order a smartphone of their own.
At what age is it recommended for a child to have a mobile?
The age at which minors have their first smartphone has plummeted in the last decade.
The ANAR Foundation recommends that you do not have your own mobile until you are 15 years old. Certain experts affirm that before the 13 years it is harmful. However, statistics reveal that one in four 10-year-olds has a mobile phone. With 11 years the percentage rises to half. And at 12 years old, three out of four children have it.
Technology is a responsibility and a privilege. Each child is different, his development is particular and, therefore, we do not bet on a fixed age at which to access his own mobile. Parents must value their child’s ability to take on this responsibility.
In any case, it is essential that there are adaptations, specific rules of use and that the limits are learned (when it should not be used, what uses it can and cannot be used, etc.).
Until the minor learns how to use it responsibly, the parents must be the owners of the phone and must be able to access it.