The addiction of children to mobile phones, consoles and online games is a reality for many families. Managing the time and use that child make of mobile phones and screens is a must.
If we review any survey on the playful preferences of Spanish children and adolescents, we will realize that technological devices computers, mobile phones, mp3 players, digital cameras, electronic robots and of course consoles or video games clearly stand out from any other object or toy.
These preferences should not alarm us, because adults and children live immersed in a technological reality that now fully reaches the world of leisure and entertainment.
The very offer and marketing of these devices is so varied and attractive that many times it is the parents themselves or other relatives who resort to it when giving a gift to the children.
The paradox comes shortly after, and even some families formulate it before, when the time that the little ones – and not so little ones – spend playing with their consoles, social networks or YouTube or Twitch videos arises. It is then that the complaints come because it seems that the child is hooked, studies little or spends a lot of time locked in the room.
There is a great division of opinions about the goodness of these devices and the benefits that they can bring to our children, so that on one side there are the clear detractors who speak only about the harm, and on the other the staunch defenders, who advocate for introduce children to this world from a very young age, because it is what they find in school and what they will find in their adult life.
What seems undeniable is that new technologies have no turning back, but, quite the contrary, every day they advance more, you have to learn to live with them and handle them.
DIGITAL GAMES: BETWEEN TRAINING AND ADDICTION
In order not to fall into reductionism, it is convenient to bring this controversy closer to what play means in childhood evolution, since it is a fundamental activity for children to learn, grow up healthy and have good socialization.
The game, above all, provides pleasure to those who play it, but it is not just fun. Through traditional games – constructions, dolls, clay, kitchens, colors, musical instruments, puzzles children explore their environment, have new perceptions and sensations, know sounds, colors, identify numbers and letters, that is, they go learning while having fun and, not least, they come into contact with other children and adults.
By playing they develop all their capacities (attention, memory, manual dexterity, imagination), express their feelings (sadness, joy, companionship, selfishness) and learn that the world, like games, is governed by a series of rules.
If we therefore pay attention to the definition and functions of the game, and we do it with a critical mind, many classic toys do not meet all these requirements and nobody puts their hands on their heads. On the contrary, almost all “technological toys” meet many of these requirements and, as we have said, they are constantly detractors.
The black point of these new technologies, and therein lie many of the criticisms, is their great appeal, their infinity of possibilities, characteristics that involve great dedication and run the risk of leading to addiction.
THE MANY ATTRACTIONS OF A VIRTUAL UNIVERSE
Video games, both computer and console, catch. First, because of its wide variety, which means that, depending on the child’s personality, they always find one game or another that is to their liking.
Second, video games generate a very stimulating virtual reality that allows the child to identify with the protagonist, whether it is an athlete, a singer, an adventurer, a hero or a villain.
Through this identification, the child feels the protagonist –although he is clear that it is a game and does not confuse his own reality with the virtual reality in which he is living and no protagonist usually abandons his adventure.
So, the child will not leave a football game until the end and then he will want to continue playing his league, or he will want to go from screen to screen to live new and unknown adventures, or he will follow the vicissitudes of his favorite doll recreating his life through of the game, and all this thanks to incredible graphic scenarios and soundtracks that accompany the action.
Although later we will also talk about the different types of games, we cannot forget that there is a wide range of educational games that allow you to learn a language, expand notions of mathematics, play chess or carry out all kinds of constructions, and also in a very pleasant environment and through an interactive dialogue with the computer.
WHEN DO YOU GO FROM ADDICTION TO ADDICTION?
The main risk is given by the hobby they create. Children become engrossed in front of the screen and forget that they have other things to do (from homework to game possibilities) and then family arguments, anger, punishments arise. Anyway, you don’t have to be alarmists or confuse hobby with addiction.
One can speak of addiction or dependence when the child focuses only on that activity, whether it is playing the console, the computer or chatting continuously, and he does it in a compulsive and exclusive way, so that when he gets home, he feels before any screen, he does not feel like having a snack and parents find it very difficult to get him out of there.
That is, when the activity is focused on fun and not on the use to search for information, when you lose control over the time you are online or when you show great anger, and even aggressiveness, by not being able to connect or play.
Without reaching addiction, a long-standing situation can be negative for themselves and for family life.
HOW TO PREVENT RISKS
In order not to reach such a complex situation, the following considerations must be taken into account:
- We are a role model for our children and if we are the first to stay in front of the mobile phone or the computer, we are setting a bad example for them.
- You have to choose the games based on the age of the child. To do this, you have to look at the covers, since they have the obligation to include both the recommended age and descriptive icons of the content.
- The child’s personality is almost as important as age. If it is a very anxious child, you have to look for games that do not increase their anxiety, as could happen with platform games, in which there are many difficulties that they have to overcome in order to move forward. Those of a violent or aggressive nature will be especially avoided.
- To prevent them from disturbing us in our tasks, we should not send them to watch television or play on the computer.
- Try to be with them while they play or chat with their friends, especially with young children, to see who they are talking to and about what.
- Encourage them to share games with friends and siblings, as it is a way for them to interact with other children and not become isolated.
- Encourage other leisure activities, such as playing sports, board games, going for a walk with the family, reading.
- Establish a time limit when playing, and preferably on weekends, which is when they have more free time.
- Avoid age-inappropriate games. Fighting, shooter (shooting) and horror games are not appropriate for those under 16 years of age.
AT WHAT AGE CAN ONE HAVE THE FIRST MOBILE?
One question that parents ask themselves is what is the appropriate age for a child to have a mobile phone. The appropriate age for them to have a mobile is around 12 or 13 years old.
It is preferable that it be a card and not a contract, so that they learn to control consumption. At those ages it should basically be a tool to communicate with parents in case of emergency.
It should not be a means that keeps them away from contact with their peers. It should be explained to them that when you are with other people it is not good to isolate yourself surfing the Internet or playing games.
Educate them to make good use of calls and texts, only when necessary. And also teach them to be responsible: turn it off in class, watch the photos and videos they take, and have them pay a part of the consumption, etc.
THE VERSATILE COMPUTER
The computer science chapter, beyond computer games, deserves some considerations that are somewhat different from what we have been talking about so far, since it is a topic that children experience as something more familiar and that is already included in practically all curricula schoolchildren.
Children get used from an early age to see their parents working in front of the screen, to present their school work on the computer or to work with virtual whiteboards in class.
But beyond the use of office automation tools, the computer is the door through which they come into contact with the world and gradually become Internet users: they seek information for their jobs, enjoy music and movies, communicate with their friends via chat, etc.
But, as in the case of video games, entering the network can lead to an excessive hobby in which they lose more time than necessary and also risks such as not knowing the people with whom they communicate, the authenticity of the information they collect, the possibility of offering personal data that allows them to be identified.
HOW TO MAKE GOOD USE OF THE INTERNET
For children to make good use of the internet, parents must:
- Monitor the content of the web pages that children visit, warning them of the risks that are run when entering according to which pages, setting security filters and selecting only those that are safe. The following website of the Ministry of Science and Technology allows you to obtain free filter tools for content not suitable for minors: www.red.es/redes/que-hacemos/chavales
- Be attentive to the social networks they use to monitor who they are interacting with.
- Recommend that they never give their personal data, address or telephone number to anyone, explaining the risks.
- Educate them in its use by being with them from time to time, limiting the time of its use and warning them of the pages that they should not enter, speaking directly about what child pornography is, violence on the Internet, etc.