Thursday, January 27

The danger of exposing our children to screens before educating them in critical thinking


New technologies are part of our day to day, and that of our children. As much as we try to escape from them, they are there. The key seems to be in the use we make of them. For the neuropsychologist Álvaro Bilbao, an important rule is that “up to six years of age, children should develop their brains away from screens (tablets, smartphones, PCs) ”. The reason is that there are studies that link exposure to these devices during the first years of life, with increased behavior problems and development of attention deficit. “The child’s brain does not need more stimuli than real life” concludes Álvaro.

New technologies, overstimulation and learning

The researcher and disseminator, Catherine L’Ecuyer asked the public at one of our events what they thought it was the biggest obstacle to learning. To later answer that “although in the past the main and most studied problem was the lack of stimuli, in 2018 we know that although it is true that the lack is a problem for learning, overstimulation is just as damaging. There are studies that confirm this, one of them, carried out in 2011, consisted of giving sugary carbonated drinks to a group of people for a month. Once this study was finished, they realized that these people had more difficulty perceiving flavors, because they had been exposed to a very high dose of sugar ”. Catherine lands these findings in our daily reality and tells us about “when we bring the sugary bun or snack sweets to the children, or when we add sugar or salt to the baby food to help them eat better. That is the reason why it is so difficult for children to eat an apple, some spinach or some chickpeas ”. This happens because “When taste is overstimulated, sensitivity lowers, the threshold of feeling raises and that child needs more and more artificial stimuli to be able to perceive the qualities of food ”.

The same is the case with new technologies. In fact, there are studies linking “screen consumption in childhood with inattention later on”. Catherine quotes a Dimitri Christakis, screen effect expert, which says that “prolonged exposure to rapid image changes during the first years of life would condition the mind to higher stimulus levels, leading to inattention later in life.” Let’s say Children get bored reading a book, or watching a teacher speak in class because their brain needs more aggressive stimulation.

Screen consumption in childhood is related to later inattention ”

Catherine L’Ecuyer – Science communicator

The danger of virtual ideals

But the problem goes beyond overstimulation, as professor and philosopher José Carlos Ruiz reminds us. “The new technologies are not good, nor are they bad. I leave them in a neutral environment. For me, social networks, the Internet, everything that revolves around new technologies is very interesting if they are used well. The problem is that children come to new technologies before being educated in critical thinking, and before being educated in the visual analysis of what they are going to consume. They are reaching new technologies without having the intellectual framework previously put in place, so technology begins to filter without having a critical apparatus, and that is where they begin to be influenced by a virtual world, which is above the real one ”.

In this video, José Carlos delves into this topic.

The case of Bhutan

José Carlos Ruiz explains it perfectly with an example in his book ‘The Art of Thinking’.

To understand it well, we would have to go to Bhutan, a country that has long held the top positions in the world ranking of happy citizens, but the arrival of television made its citizens begin to feel miserable and unhappy.

We have to educate the eyes of our children before leaving them a mobile Freepik


To explain it, I will extract a fragment of what José Carlos Ruiz tells in his book:

“The Bhutanese woman had the role of a strong woman, capable of collaborating with the tasks of agriculture and livestock, she left her home to help, at the same time that she brought the family forward. The men of Bhutan fell in love with that profile of a woman. Suddenly they start to consume television. An invasion of screens that its citizens were not prepared for. The men of Bhutan stopped liking their women, and the aesthetic and social model of women that they had became outdated. The women also stopped feeling pretty when compared to the models and actresses that emerged from the screens ”.

What happened in Bhutan? That its citizens were not critically educated to consume screens, they were not trained to approach them with what José Carlos Ruiz calls “the switch of critical thinking activated.” And this is not only happening in Bhutan. It happens in all societies. The consequences are more and more evident, “Diseases such as anorexia or bulimia are increasing because, among other factors, we do not have the ability to properly analyze the images. Depressions and the state of dissatisfaction increase when we consume virtual images retouched with computer programs, where everyone is perfect and seems to lead an idyllic life ”.

And this is where José Carlos Ruiz urges us to educate our children in critical thinking, to provide them with the “intellectual framework” before leaving them in front of a screen. In this way, our children will be much less vulnerable to them.


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