Anna Ramis: “The topic of digital natives is an absolute lie”
In an environment increasingly digital and dominated by the screens of televisions, computers, tablets and smartphones the question, for the pedagogue Anna RamisIt is not so much to undertake an impossible crusade against the screens, but to launch a campaign in favor of children, which requires committed adults who “love and respect them, offer them encouragement, speak to them, give them serenity and that they offer them their gaze ”. The equation is simple: “More hours of screens is less time spent interacting with adults.” Or vice versa. From this idea arose in 2019 the campaign #De0a3nadadepantallas, to sensitize mothers and fathers, but also the entire network of professionals who are around children from before birth to 3 years, that is, midwives, pediatricians, educators, childcare centers , services for young children, etc. This campaign has materialized in a book From 0 to 3, no screens? (Editorial Octaedro), as well as in various articles, talks and materials. All this so that, according to the pedagogue, families have more information and can act preventively and not expose children, at this key stage of their personal development, to the avoidable risks that they already indicate. various investigations.
QUESTION: I see that health authorities such as the WHO or pediatric associations speak of not offering screens for up to two years. You add one more and consider that children should not be in contact with them until they are three years old. Why?
ANSWER: There are authors who even speak of avoiding them until the age of six. I have stayed in the three years because it is the age at which children in our country begin mass schooling. It is true that it is not compulsory until six, but at three the family dynamics, in general, already begin to change. I think it is easier not to change dynamics until the age of three. I believe that until then they should not be in contact with the screens and from that age to do so, but in minimal proportions.
P: Can times be stipulated?
R: More than times, you have to think about how you are doing it, how you use the screens. That is to say, in the case of a child who has many different opportunities to play, to interact with nature, to spend time among equals, who has opportunities to interact with adults, then surely there is no problem in which his parents allow him to see some drawings, for example. The problem is when we leave the tablet, the mobile phone or we put the television on them while they eat, when they have to calm down, when they get bored, when they are nervous … We give them screens in all those moments of daily life that they have to learn (they have to learn to eat, to use cutlery, to regulate their emotions). I believe that we should protect the wealth of brain evolution that they have up to the age of six by offering and enhancing these learning opportunities without screens involved. Let’s give many alternatives. Now, let’s not ask for this in times of pandemic.
P: It is known that during confinement the use of screens in boys and girls skyrocketed. How do we manage technology in exceptional circumstances like the pandemic?
R: It is very complicated because it is a lot of time at home, fathers and mothers working, but here we should enrich the environment with many proposals. In this way, screens are one more entertainment or learning proposal, but not the only one. I insist a lot that adults verbalize in front of children that these long periods of time that we are forced to spend in front of the screens are for work. After a certain time the telephone and the computer should disappear from our dynamics.
P: The issue of screens, like all those that affect parenting, is a highly polarized issue. I see that on the one hand it seems that there are those who start leaving their mobile or tablet from the beginning and those who avoid it at all costs.
R: We rely heavily on topics. For example, we use the topic of digital natives a lot and we think that children are more digitally smart. This is an absolute lie. The smart one is not the child (which is), but the manufacturer of this type of technology that has simplified it so much that we can all use it, no matter how old we are. It is an outrage that there are children of three or four years with their own tablet and even with their own games. The infant brain has not changed in the last 100 years, it still needs the same thing: adults who are around it and rich learning environments, which does not mean early stimulation.
Another topic is to think that since society is so technological, and more so when they are older, the sooner they start, the better. There is no one who, by having started earlier, will know more. There are many other things that stimulate thought.
P: Children’s exposure to screens often seems unavoidable. I think of little brothers whose older brothers do watch, for example, cartoons on television. Should a child under three years of age be prevented from seeing it here too? I see this as much more difficult to control.
R: I think the important thing is to act with foresight. If the older brother is going to have a little screen time at some point of the day, it is necessary to think before what we can offer the smallest at that moment. Anticipate us. Give you proposals that may even attract the oldest. We cannot think that there are only screens.
P: How should the inclusion of children in digital life be so that this inclusion is done in a healthy way?
R: The fundamental thing is to avoid this having the TV in the background. There are families that when their children are born redistribute the living room in such a way that the play space wins and television even disappears. Others keep it, but television is only on at specific moments. The same with the mobile. If we are permanently with him in hand, it will attract his attention. We must also think about what use we make of the telephone: do we use it to communicate with the grandmother? Do we see some photos of funny moments? Are we looking for information about something? This is a good use of the mobile, to teach them this little by little, beyond the passive sedentary lifestyle of just looking at the screen.
P: What are the effects of screens at an early age on boys and girls?
R: In the book I collect a Canadian study from 2019 in which effects have been observed in boys and girls who spend an average of two and a half hours a day in front of the screens. A continuous contact with the screens affects everything: emotional learning, language, eye health, rest, muscle tone, motor skills … I began to be interested in this topic when I saw that the teachers of the infant stage they put their hands to their heads because of how the children arrived with regard to motor skills and language. More hours of screens is less time spent interacting with adults and other children.
P: You mentioned before that we give them the mobile phone or a tablet to calm down.
R: Learning to calm ourselves is something very valid for a lifetime. When you are small or small, emotions assail your entire body. It is mom or dad who helps you see this, they are the outer voice that tells us what is happening and little by little that voice is internalizing. We learn to have the ability to regulate ourselves. When you offer a screen right now, their ability to feel and experience emotions is hijacked. There we stop interacting with the child, we stop being that external voice that has to help him learn to regulate himself.
P: Pick up a quote from Jordi Collet which says that families live a strong malaise regarding the imperative of having to educate their children and have to teach them a lot and very well, under pain of the shame of not being good fathers and mothers. What does a boy or girl need from birth to three years?
R: You need adults who love and respect you. Adults who offer him encouragement, who speak to him, who give him serenity, who offer him their gaze. And, incidentally, more contact with nature. Our lives cannot just be screens when our brains are developing. It is not about being afraid of screens or launching a campaign against technology, but we must launch a campaign in favor of children and, for this, we have to be the adults they need most of the time.
P: This “most of the time” is interesting because it is not easy to be those adults at all times without exception …
R: They live in solitude, but also interconnected. We are connected for everything: to control pregnancy, to inform us about breastfeeding, to talk with other fathers and mothers … The book is a question and each one must answer it to the level that they can. What I want to do? How do I want to breed? You meet families who co-sleep and breastfeed until the age of five, but then offer screens to their children from the year on. There is another thing that I claim in all the talks: the institutions must assume parenting as a social and political responsibility. Every time we have fewer children, we are going to bet that the family and work conciliation is something real. The commitment to a healthy childhood is also a commitment to motherhood and fatherhood that can be exercised with dignity. My claim is also political.
P: Do our material and economic conditions also influence this excess of screens?
R: They influence a lot. Here in Barcelona, when I started working on this issue, I was dealing with mothers who worked the night shift. When they arrive in shared flats, they have to put the TV on their children so that they do not disturb other people while they sleep. This is child poverty, and poverty stems from female poverty, from living conditions … That is why my claim is also social and political.
P: Is there going back when the screens have invaded your lives?
R: It is never late, and even less when we are talking about a small child. To reverse a malpractice, the first thing we must do is load ourselves with information and then load ourselves with thousands of alternatives to the screens to be able to offer that girl or boy. It is like a detoxification: we will have to add positive incentives as an alternative to the screens and remain very firm in the decision.