Remember all those headlines about the dangers children face from spending too much time using their smartphones and tablets, backed up by the World Health Organization, along with guidelines for future policy? Well, it turns out that they were based on poor research, and that the conclusions reached were quite simply wrong.
That’s right: there is no evidence that using smartphones or tablets are bad for anyone’s brain development. Surprise, surprise, it turns out they aren’t toxic. Sure, uncontrolled or ridiculously high levels of use can be harmful, just like excessive use of anything can be, but the recent demonization of these devices and concerns about the amount of time children spend using them is unjustified. A meta-study recently published in the journal Nature shows that previous analyses were improperly carried out, were full of false positives and flawed results, and were published simply because their incorrect conclusions coincided with what many people wanted to believe. These are studies whose authors have tortured the data until they provided the answers they wanted, but that, in fact were not there. Any link between the amount of time children spend using devices and their health is inconsequential, and of course, it would therefore be nonsensical to base policies or recommendations of any kind on those conclusions.
At the same time, there’s no doubt that using these devices to the detriment of other activities, such as playing with their peers, socializing, practicing music or sport or socializing generally is not a good idea. But children who are unable to put their smartphone down, even at the dinner table, are not suffering from addiction: they simply haven’t been brought up properly: don’t blame the device, blame the parents.
Arguing that smartphones are addictive or that manufacturers are to blame for making them so appealing is pathetic. What’s missing in all this a bit of basic common sense: if we use these devices as a way to pacify our children, we can’t then complain that they won’t pay attention to anything else. We don’t need a bogus survey to tell us that, we just need to use our brains. These devices, in fact, are like anything else: we wouldn’t let our children spend all their time playing football, eating or biting their nails. As it turns out, the fact that our children are skilled at playing Fortnite or whichever game is most popular at the moment, can, as many parents have discovered, help them socialize, as well as preparing them for a future where smartphones and tablets will be ubiquitous.
The rapid adoption of new technologies by younger generations always prompts fear among parents. But the reality, the truth, which science has now shown, is that the use of smartphones and tablets under normal circumstances does not generate any significant problems, does not require any further measures than the use of common sense, and is not responsible for problems such as obesity, anxiety or depression. We’re all free to believe what we want… but remember that science does not endorse those conclusions.
On a final note, if you were thinking of undergoing a digital detox yourself to get over the shock, forget it: all the hype turns out to be baloney as well.