Cell phones have revolutionized the way we communicate and access information. However, along with the technological advantages, a number of problems arise that directly impact the mental health of children and young people.
When Apple launched the first iPhone in 2007, few imagined the problems that could arise due to the lack of regulation on its use. Smartphones, initially celebrated as technological breakthroughs, have given way to what expert Evgeny Morozov calls "technological solutionism." The youngest, born in the digital age, face significant challenges, from distortions of reality to mental health problems.
The problem of overexposure to social networks
Overexposure to social networks can have serious consequences on the mental health of young people. From distortions of reality to obsessions with physical appearance, depression and anxiety, the effects are worrisome.
In the United States, suicidal ideation has doubled in a decade. In Spain, almost half of young people have thought about suicide. Parents are disoriented in the face of these problems, often needing the intervention of professionals.
Legal challenges in the digital era
In the digital era, we are faced with a legal vacuum and obsolete legislation. The speed of technological advances exceeds the capacity of legislative systems to adapt. Social networks operate in a disturbing lawlessness, where the consequences are not fully assumed. Regulating the use of social networks becomes imperative to protect our children.
Social networks are not just platforms for interaction; they are businesses. Recent revelations from a former Meta (formerly Facebook) employee indicate that the company was aware of the damage to young people's mental health and the spread of false information. This has led to lawsuits and highlights the urgent need for regulations to protect minors.
Direct mental health consequences
Comparing giving a phone to a child with no self-control to leaving a line of cocaine on their desk is shocking, but illustrates the severity of the problem. Behavioral addictions, especially linked to digital devices, share characteristics with other addictions. Not all abusive use results in addiction, but it increases the likelihood. Establishing standards for use is essential to prevent adverse effects.
How do you know if cell phone use is becoming abusive?
Some signs include the rejection of social activities in favor of constant connection, the use of screens at all times of rest and the preference for mobile over favorite hobbies. Detecting these signs is crucial, as the process is gradual and can go unnoticed.
Beyond addiction, adults must recognize that cell phones provide unlimited access to social networks, exposing minors to situations for which they are not prepared. Cautious, attentive and empathetic accompaniment becomes essential to provide safety and companionship, building an environment where acceptance by the group does not compromise critical thinking.