- Andre Biernath – andre_biernath
- From BBC News Brazil in London
About 90% of children and adolescents in Brazil are connected to the Internet. Of these, 95% use cell phones as the main device for accessing websites and applications.
This data from a 2019 survey by Brazil’s Internet Steering Committee supports the fact that the online world is part of the reality of the majority population – and it is virtually impossible to imagine that this “digital dependence” will diminish. Years (or future generations).
On the one hand, the Internet can bring people together and open up many possibilities for learning and entertainment. Connected time, on the other hand, carries the risk of exaggeration, inappropriate content access or scams, and unnecessary exposure, especially when we talk about young people.
But how can parents and guardians ensure that their children make healthy use of cell phones and other devices? And how do you know when this relationship with the screen has crossed the line?
BBC News Brazil has listened to experts on the subject and summarized below seven signs of what could be done to improve the relationship with the digital world.
1. Stay on screen for a long time
The source of most of the recommendations is a series of articles published by Health in the Digital Age Working Group of the Brazilian Society of Pediatrics (SBP) between 2019 and 2021.
“And all of our guidelines are in line with guidelines published by pediatric academies in the United States, Canada and the European Union,” said Dr. Evelyn Eisenstein, coordinator of the Brazilian Group.
The first point that experts focus on is how many hours children and adolescents spend online.
In the ideal world, cell phone communication timelines, Tablets And computers are determined by age, you can see below:
- Children under 2: No contact with screen or video games;
- 2 to 5 years: up to one hour a day;
- 6 to 10 years: between one and two hours a day;
- 11 to 18 years old: between two and three hours a day.
“We need to keep in mind that there are 24 hours a day. If the young man stays connected for 4 or 5 hours, it represents 20% of the time already available,” Eisenstein calculated.
2. Having access to inappropriate content
But it’s not just the amount that experts are concerned about. They also urge young people to pay close attention to the quality of the content they access.
“It is estimated that half of parents do not know what their children use on the Internet,” reports Eisenstein.
“And children don’t know how to block inappropriate messages when the online world is full of bullies and predators,” the pediatrician added.
The guidelines, therefore, monitor the activity of minors on websites and applications. Many cell phone and online services even have tools and filters that allow this parental control.
SBP recommends that children and adolescents not use computers, tablets and cell phones in isolated areas of the home such as the bedroom or office, but in areas where adults are always nearby.
3. Change from day to night
When contact with the screen goes beyond all limits, one of the most affected items is sleep.
“It’s normal for kids to play or use social media until the morning,” said Thiago Viola, a professor of psychology at the Pontifical Catholic University School of Medicine in Rio Grande.
“And we know how important sleep is to our health, especially in childhood and adolescence,” he added.
During the night rest the body develops and the brain strengthens memory and learning.
When young people change from day to night, all of these processes become disabled, which can have lifelong consequences.
“The norm is to limit contact with light stimuli coming from the screen as soon as it gets dark,” Dr. Rodrigo Machado instructed, from the Integrated Outpatient Clinic of the Institute of Psychiatry, Hospital Das Clinicus de Sওo Paulo’s Impulse Disorders.
“Light disrupts the production of melatonin, a hormone that signals the 24-hour rhythm of the day. Without the presence of this substance, the whole sleep process is delayed,” he explains.
4. Abandon socialization, routine and social activity
Other common signs that young people are exaggerating screen time are the partial or complete abandonment of all activities outside the Internet, such as sports, cultural and leisure activities.
Another worrying symptom is the replacement of socialization with friends, parents or family by interacting through video games or social networks.
“Again, we are left with the problem of limitations: when children or adolescents fail to perform basic tasks such as eating, sleeping, bathing, preparing homework or doing physical activity as a result of cell phone use, something goes wrong,” Eisenstein cited.
Experts say it is important to establish routine and clear rules in the first decades of life and they should be included in childhood.
“In this context, parents of minors cannot use cell phones or Tablets Like a ‘cane’, to entertain a child while they do other things “, Viola highlights.
Often, this unlimited access to the screen at such a young age is the beginning of a process that will lead to the misuse of electronic devices for years to come.
5. Class performance suffers a drop
The SBP document urges parents and guardians to pay attention to “fall performance, failure, drop out or trans.”
Therefore, notice that the child or teenager is spending many hours in front of the computer or cell phone and in parallel, the grade and behavior in the classroom has changed.
In some cases, it is possible that there is a connection between these two events.
“And we cannot ignore the fact that schools and educators have a responsibility in all these discussions, even when we are in an epidemic where many school activities have to take place at a distance through video calling applications,” Eisenstein said.
6. Involvement in hooliganism
You need to keep an eye on this kind of discrimination in the physical and digital world – and take care of both the attacker and the victim.
“Older children and adolescents may be the target Cyber bullying And go through the process of ‘cancellation’ of the whole social circle ”, Viola describes.
“In some cases, close details of photos, videos and targets fall into the network, which will cause a lot of emotional and psychological reactions,” he warned.
Machado noted that the digital world could lead to more aggressive behavior on the part of users. “Since you do not see the reaction of others, you feel more comfortable sharing primitive emotions without critical or moral restraint,” the psychiatrist said.
“In other words, networks have a tendency to perpetuate and normalize extreme behavior,” he added.
Experts say the best tool is prevention: parents need to educate and guide young people on how to deal with this situation.
When Bullying Growing up and reaching more serious levels, it will often be necessary to involve some kind of mediation conducted by the family members of the attackers and victims, school representatives and psychologists or other professionals working in the area.
7. Develop body and mind problems
Excessive use of cell phones and other Internet-connected devices can cause many symptoms and diseases. The SBP has listed some of the guidelines published in recent years:
- Sleep disorders such as insomnia;
- Eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia;
- Sedentary lifestyle;
- Anatomical muscle pain;
- Resentment, aggression and violent behavior;
- Anxiety and depression.
Part of this frustration is related to prolonged downtime. People who spend many hours sitting in front of a computer, for example, have less time to exercise and may have back pain due to inadequate posture.
Another part of the symptoms, however, is an emotional and emotional background. Eisenstein quotes, “Access to weight loss content and the search for an ideal body increases the risk of eating disorders.”
How to solve these problems?
Considering that cell phones are part of most people’s routine, is it possible to have a healthy relationship with technology? And how to identify situations where the use of these devices is out of bounds, especially in childhood and adolescence?
“The first intervention is to disconnect little by little. There is no point in punishing children or adolescents abruptly and in certain ways or taking away their cell phones,” Eisenstein noted.
“And, of course, this disconnection from the Internet involves all members of the family, not just the young,” the pediatrician highlighted.
Viola reinforces the need for delimitation. “Children and adolescents need to know that they can access the Internet for a certain number of hours a day.”
Finally, it is worth emphasizing that there are ways to detect and treat addiction to the use of cell phones and other electronic devices.
“If a young person has difficulty with social, professional, educational or family matters, a health professional needs to be evaluated,” said Guide Machado.
In diagnosing a disorder such as video game addiction, it is possible to intervene through cognitive-behavioral therapy, a method of psychology that seeks to analyze, rationalize, and propose intervention to the patient’s habits and thoughts.
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