Minors and screens: how to guide our children

In recent months, we have witnessed a flood of news related to young people’s relationship with mobile phones and other digital devices. The reality is that, according to the latest studies, 38% of 11-year-old children have a mobile phone, and the percentage rises to 94% when they are 15 years old. In this situation, many families are wondering how we should manage screen times and the contents that they see. However, there is no “appropriate” age.

Laura Cuesta, a communications, digital marketing and social media professor at Camilo José Cela University, gave a talk in which she addressed this topic. “We need to equip our children with the best tools in the digital world so they can deal with it in the best possible way, as well as always having a close relationship where we are their role models.”

How to understand our children to create a better connection

For our children, there is no distinction between the real world and the digital one. “Everything is their world,” says Cuesta. For adults, it is difficult not to make distinctions between the analogue and digital world. “Let’s understand our children in their reality, because we have to normalise the use of technology without fears and, of course, setting rules and limits.”

Parents and educators, who must accompany minors in all aspects of their lives, should also be prepared to detect and anticipate inappropriate use of new technologies, teaching them to use them in a healthy and responsible manner. Because there is no better parental control than the parents themselves, according to the expert. That is to say, the best parental control is the involvement of parents, setting rules and limits on its use. As educators, we have a lot to contribute, and the sooner we mediate with a conversation in a climate of trust, the better.

According to the author of Crecer con pantallas (Amat Publishing, 2023), “at first you can get devices without data, only with Wi-Fi connection, and there is no need for it to be the latest smartphone”. The most important thing is that we teach them to self-regulate, therefore, let’s not give them ‘everything’ from the start, because the ultimate goal “is for them to be digitally autonomous”.

Regarding parental controls, Cuesta says, “they are very helpful especially at early ages”, and always bear in mind that “we should not delegate all of our children’s education to these tools”. With them we avoid certain risks, but they do not educate. We need to be there to explain why it is necessary to establish schedules.

In summary, Laura Cuesta recommends:

  • Educating our children with and without technology. It is essential to spend time with our children and accompany them to get to know them better and be their role models.
  • Do not offer screens until 18 or 24 months of age as it can influence psychomotor development. Then, the time can be gradually increased.
  • Avoid the ‘digital dummy’, that is, giving the child the smartphone or tablet to calm them down in certain situations. It doesn’t depend so much on the age but on the degree of control of each child or young person.
  • More than screen time, it is important to think about the type of screen content our children consume, therefore it is essential to know our children. No es lo Recreational use and creative consumption that will help him learn and innovate are not the same.
  • Gradually giving them autonomy so that with all the digital skills they can ultimately use electronic devices responsibly and independently in adulthood.
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