Are we over stimulating our children?

Jorge García Palomo

Yes, it’s beginning to be cause for concern. Are we over stimulating children too much (and please excuse the redundancy.) Child psychologist Alicia Banderas feels that the current trend toward giving our children so many skills and capacities is not really beneficial: it reduces their critical spirit and produces impatient people who never know that healthy feeling of boredom. Tedium. Solitude. Silence. Contemplation. The fact that after the number 1 comes the number 2. According to this expert, there is a generalised myth –that the brain of a child is like a sponge– that should be debunked. How often have we heard that myth repeated without objecting? Not to mention the excessive use of cell phones, computers and tablets, which increase alertness and overstimulation, and even lead to narcissism and dubious self-esteem.

It was recently reported that in 2018, for the first time, the Spanish Ministry of Health included addiction to new technologies in its National Addictions Plan. The World Health Organization, for its part, notes that one in four people suffers from behavioural disorders because of these addictions. Adolescents and young people are the group most at risk. So in effect: it is urgent to repeatedly make people aware that these ubiquitous devices must not be misused. The virtual era is an irreversible reality, an example being one of the most popular social networks: every day on Instagram there are 4.2 billion likes and 95 million photos and videos are uploaded. These numbers are from Omnicore, but few studies are necessary to realise that we’re all walking around somewhat hypnotised. Fresh People Mag has written about how “at the beginning of this millennium, some scientists began to talk about the ‘thumb generation’ because this is the digit we use the most.

A professional book in search of good sense

Niños sobreestimulados (‘Over stimulated Children,’ Ed. Libros Cúpula) is the book by Alicia Banderas that advocates education over a low flame. It warns of the risks of the excessive stimulation we’re submitting our young people to, with their schedules more common to a business executive than to a child. From the earliest age we expose them to a frenetic, incessant flood of images that their brains are simply not prepared to assimilate or filter. A flood of information to which they respond well, with excellent perception and pertinent multitasking, but which saturates them. “These situations leave them unprotected, without any time for calm or for discovering the world on their own,” the author writes. This multimedia communicator is a firm defender of a more serene education, one that doesn’t neglect the innate creativity and curiosity of children.

Alicia Banderas formulates current issues that must be analysed if we are to take on the present and the future of humanity, which will depend on the so-called Net Generation. How can we avoid their technological intoxication and assure that electronics will coexist with traditional games? What can be done to optimise concentration and release stress? How can we reconcile the benefits of machines with the virtues of an earlier time, without so many apps for everything? “Neither caveman or digital madman”, she says. In the end, it’s necessary to learn to play unplanned games, to become detached, to practice patience and develop the imagination.

Guidelines and practical advice

The psychologist not only analyses the theory of the excessive stimulation that children suffer and which may not be as beneficial as some people think. She also makes suggestions for correcting each of the educational errors she describes. For example, how can we promote patience and concentration during infancy? “When your child is concentrated on an activity, before interrupting him you should ask yourself whether what you’re going to tell him or ask him is really that important, or whether it can wait,” she says. “Respect his rhythm, though at times you can guide him or show him things so that he can shorten the time he’s spending on a task,” she goes on. “Allow him to discover what he likes most. They say that what you spend hours and hours on, losing all track of time, is what really motivates you.” These are certainly keys to avoiding frustration and allowing each individual to find his own social role.

“Strengthening family ties and sharing time with your child on the Web will help him correct any excesses. Without prohibiting its use, it’s possible, with moderation and good sense, to put the digital world at the service of adolescents,” says Alicia Banderas. She is optimistic and praises the Net Generation for having changed things, even when it comes to communicating. “And since technological development is unstoppable, a generation that has been trained digitally will transform the world, and society will go forward,” she concludes.

Somebody once said something to the effect that “patience is a virtue, but to achieve it we must be patent.” Will all of us be able to become more virtuous? Faced with this irreversible spiral of stimuli, the people who within a few years will be directing our planet have to put on the brakes. But first they have to learn how to do so. They need mentors and support from adults. At least until they can download the formula from the Apple Store while they simultaneously play Candy Crush, study and tweet about a TV series.

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