From ‘Fortnite’ to Instagram, the advice of the experts to protect the mental health of minors

Technology

The Internet is not a thing of the future. There are more and more users who, day after day, spend a good part of the day with their eyes glued to the screen; among them, obviously, there are also minors. In Spain, according to the study ‘Hyperconnected families: the new landscape of learners and digital natives’, children of primary school age spend 711 hours and 45 minutes per year browsing the Internet; very close to the 792 hours they dedicate to study. The turnaround does not come until they land in high school, when the time on the Internet exceeds 1,058 hours, while that of school work remains at 1,054.

use of technology among digital natives, it is important that they understand that the network – almost a bottomless well of information and leisure opportunities – hides dangers. So much for mental health, as the recent Facebook scandal shows, as for security. At ABC we have spoken with experts to offer some advice on the guidelines that the child should follow to avoid problems.

Awareness

Juan José Nombela, director of the Area of ​​Computer Science and Technology at the International University of La Rioja (UNIR), recalls that online threats exist for everyone. Also for the youngest: «The risks at the moment in the network for the youngest are many. Over the years they evolve, especially now when we are all connected to the internet and more digitized.

Therefore, it is important that parents first understand, and then explain, the general and specific risks to which they are exposed. “In their case we are not just talking about the risk of them falling into a ‘phishing’ scam; also about things that can be more serious, such as ‘sexting’ or ‘grooming’ (sexual harassment of minors) “, says Nombela.

In tackling these problems, experts recommend that, rather than prohibiting the use of tools, what parents should do is “monitor and educate.”

Instagram, a false ideal

Recent Facebook documents leaked by former company employee Frances Haugen have made it clear that the social network is fully aware that its platforms, specifically Instagram, can be harmful to young users. Especially for teenage girls who feel bad about their bodies. Mark Zuckerberg, owner of the social network, has promised (again) that the company will strive to provide experiences that are positive for the little ones.

In the opinion of Ofelia Tejerina, president of the Internet Association, “the world of fashion, music and, ultimately, the ‘influencers'” who swarm through the ‘app’ are the main responsible for example, 32% of teens who feel bad about their body feel even worse when they use Instagram. The expert points out that the “elements that distort reality” – the biased content that promises an ideal life that, deep down, does not exist – has always been there for minors, but the advancement of technology has caused that “now the The effect has multiplied ».

To combat it in the case of young people, Tejerina emphasizes that “it is necessary to take care of the self-esteem of young people and the education they receive from their environment. It does not matter the public administration, the family or the school. In addition, it draws attention to the importance of social networks taking more measures to attack content that can be dangerous for the mental health of minors.

For his part, Ferrán Lalueza, professor of Communication at the Open University of Catalonia and an expert in social networks, points out that the solution is not to prohibit use of the social network, since this can generate “a more intense desire in the young and the appearance of a feeling of social exclusion, which is not something desirable.” “The best thing is to talk to them so they understand the risks. In the case of Instagram, they have to understand that what is there is not real, which is what is damaging many adolescents “, explains the expert.

Lalueza also emphasizes that whoever does not understand this “even if they have a wonderful lifestyle, they will end up depressed, because there is no lifestyle that can be compared to that of the ‘influencers’, which is something that is very careful to show the best and, in addition, with beauty filters. The story of social networks is fiction and, before any comparison, we will lose out ».

Video games and addiction

Just a few weeks ago, the General Hospital and the Provincial Hospital of Castellón announced the first diagnosed case of addiction to the well-known online video game ‘Fortnite’, one of the favorite titles among minors around the world. The minor who suffered them is between 13 and 15 years old and spent up to 20 hours a day pressing buttons.

Despite this case, the psychologist Javier Álvarez points out that “video games by themselves are not dangerous for mental health”, instead, “what is dangerous is excess.” To avoid addiction problems, «it is important to take into account the age of the minor to see what limits to establish and what parental control is necessary. The role of the parents is fundamental since it will be necessary to be attentive to the time that the minor spends to play, socialization, isolation and school performance ”.

The opinion of Jorge Flores, director of the platform moves along the same lines due to the good use of the PantallasAmigas technology. As he points out, the ideal is that «parents encourage their children to make a balanced and varied use of content and timing, that video games are also appropriate for their age and that they leave a useful residue. Parental controls can help, but there needs to be some kind of supervision.

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