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today’s distraction, tomorrow’s problem

It’s becoming a habit: the use of mobile phones by babies, especially to control their tantrums, is normalized. Are we aware of what it can mean for children?

Frequently demonized, the new technologies they have brought one paradigmatic change not only in communication, but also in education: the use of cell phones to distract us has become normalized in our day-to-day lives, although it is now when babies enter the equation. Is it a good idea to turn to screens at these ages?

At EFEsalut we have Javier Tubío, professor of the Master’s Degree in Neuropsychology and Education at the International University of La Rioja (UNIR) to know the risks involved in these practices and to know how to manage the use of screens in children.

A short-term solution

The easiest thing is to distract the child with a screen, but making it a habit is dangerous. This is the message provided by Professor Tubío, who emphasizes the importance of babies learning to live with their emotions, without mobile phones like “passive pacifiers“.

“Everything we do, our behaviors and experiences, has an impact on our development. We may be biologically determined, but without our environment and the interaction with it this is nothing”, explains the psychologist.

If our behaviors and experiences are decisive in our development, the interaction with screens is the same way.

What are the consequences of early cell phone use?

But before demonizing mobile devices, it should be noted how the incorporation of new technologies into our daily lives has conditioned the way in which the little ones develop. As Javier Tubío points out, not always in a bad way.

The psychologist explains that although babies are currently starting to speak later, they have developed digital skills more quickly and efficiently.

For example, the new generations have better divided attention, which was not seen in young children before.

Up to the age of two, no screens

But either way, if there’s one thing experts agree on, it’s that children under the age of two shouldn’t be using screens. It is clear that in a digitized world, it is not an easy task.

“It is very difficult to fulfill. In fact, only 24% of parents have reported following these recommendations”, affirms Tubío.

Why shouldn’t mobiles be an option for soothing babies?

There are situations where we may have no choice but to resort to a quick fix. But the point is that it is something specific, not usual. Because otherwise we would be feeding a vicious circle:

  • He doesn’t learn to deal with the situation
  • This type of behavior is reinforced by providing it with a reward (in this case, the screen)
  • He learns that the way to get something is to get angry.

We develop through experience

The reason for insisting on the danger that the use of mobile phones in babies can bring to cognitive development is precisely because they do not learn to manage situations.

There are critical stages in brain development in which fundamental strategies for social life are learned, executive skills which regulate behavior afterwards.

“Let’s say they are the conductors of the orchestrathey plan the behavior, they guide the emotions so as not to act in an exaggerated way”, points out the expert.

These executive abilities, although biologically determined, are also dependent on experience. And if the child is not exposed to it, but instead resorts to passive distraction strategies, he does not learn to deal with his own emotions.

EFE/Alessandro Tell me

How do I act in front of a rebuke?

Therefore, even if it is easy, we must avoid using mobile phones as a distraction to the child’s anger or frustration. The specialist in neuropsychology indicates two ways to deal with tantrums:

  • Let him be angry and verbalize it: What’s wrong? why are you angry
    • Depending on the age, it will be possible for the little one to verbalize his emotions. The point would be to try to get the child to identify what is happening to him and to react to it in a healthy, natural and independent way.
  • Active strategies to deal with your emotions: Jump, walk, hug.
    • Look for the child to be reassured by certain behaviors and to understand that he must adopt a proactive role regarding his emotions and that unpleasant situations are normal, have a name and can be recognized and resolved.

Adapt to the new reality

We cannot ignore that we are facing one digital reality, so doing without screens is not an option. In this sense, the responsible use of new technologies comes into play again.

And it is that, as the UNIR professor points out, it should not be a problem if it is managed well: in its schedule, in its size, within the recommended ages and never as a distraction tool at the time to handle emotions.

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