Regulate rather than control: Technology enables significant learning in children and adolescents

The apparent connectivity and entertainment offered by smartphones, social networks, video games and other digital platforms raises a growing concern: digital addiction.

The incident has sparked a heated debate about the need to regulate these sites to protect the mental health and well-being of children and young people.

Ricardo Roman, director of the Alberto Blest Ghana School in Chile, says the solution to the problem is not to ban or restrict access to the Internet or cell phones, but rather that „well regulated and focused, (these tools) are effective in creating deep and meaningful learning in all subjects and levels.”

For Chilean educators, the main challenge in current education is not screens, but improving processes – in the classroom and beyond – so they put students at the core.

„Young people learn by doing things that are meaningful to them, where they can experiment and engage in an environment of trust and affection, and encouragement and bonding with the teacher is essential,” she adds.

In the same way, Eliana Exalto, director of the psychology degree at the University of France Tamayo, UniFrance, considers that the educational systems of many countries already use technology (robotics and artificial intelligence) in curriculum development as a tool to improve skills and abilities. Children and Adolescents.

„Uncontrolled use of the Internet and cell phone can be a negative aspect in a child's development, because the Internet increases their vulnerability to risks and dangers. Unfortunately, many children, having online access, are not supervised and it becomes more dangerous for them,” reflects the educator.

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Obviously, social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat, along with online video games, offer highly immersive experiences that can be addictive to young people. The constant stimulation, instant social validation, and sense of belonging that these sites provide can lead to a worrisome dependency that negatively affects the mental health and personal development of younger users.

Exalto points out that excessive use of cell phones or the Internet exposes children and adolescents to several risks: Privacy issues, identity theft, social media addiction, cyberbullying, contact with dangerous strangers, grooming, sexting, rape or fake news.

A back and forth discussion

Numerous studies have documented the negative effects of excessive use of social media and video games on children and adolescents, including sleep problems, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and difficulties in interpersonal relationships.

The findings call for concrete action from experts, parents and legislators to regulate these sites and protect young people from the dangers of digital addiction.

The debate has intensified in recent years. Proponents of regulation argue that clear limits and safeguards should be established to protect young people from the exploitation and mental health risks of overusing these sites. They propose measures such as limiting screen time, restricting advertising aimed at children and adolescents, and implementing more effective parental control tools.

Meanwhile, critics of the restrictions warn of the potential negative effects of excessive government interference on freedom of expression and online innovation.

They argue that parents and guardians have the primary responsibility to monitor and control children and adolescents' access to these sites, and that education about the responsible use of technology is essential to addressing the problem of digital addiction.

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Amidst this debate, the European Union and many of its member states have begun to take action to address digital addiction among young people.

In 2023, the European Commission proposed a set of guidelines to protect children online, including banning certain advertising practices aimed at minors and promoting safe and healthy online environments. Additionally, several European countries have introduced legislation to regulate screen time and online advertising targeted at children and adolescents.

Obviously, social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat, along with online video games, offer highly immersive experiences that can be addictive to young people.

As the debate continues, it is clear that a concerted, multidisciplinary approach is needed to address the problem of digital addiction among young people. While it is important to protect online freedom and encourage innovation, it is also important to ensure the safety and well-being of the next generation in an increasingly digital world.

In the meantime, Eliana Exalto recommends taking some preventive measures to ensure that the interaction of children and adolescents with technology is positive, such as control over the time of use, supervision by an adult or guardian, firm communication of guardians for children, and attention until adolescents themselves use the new tools positively in any area. Don't give your child a cell phone just as a distraction.

„Finding a balance between these goals will be essential to guarantee a healthy and sustainable future for our children and adolescents. Technology should be an ally in our lives, not a harm or inconvenience in our children's lives,” reflects the Department of Education.

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