ORF: Smartphone as a digital dummy

Especially for families, smartphones, tablets, Facebook and the like have become a big challenge. I was interviewed by the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation about the sensible and mindful use of digital technology.

How much smartphone and tablet does the family need and tolerate?

The mobile phone is often used to keep the children quiet for a few minutes so that they can at least take a shower in peace, because often there is no other way. A familiar situation for many in their own four walls: The family sits together at the table, no one says anything, everyone looks at the display of their mobile phone. Modern devices can bring all communication to a standstill.

The tablet has become a digital dummy

The digital helpers have meanwhile become - to put it exaggeratedly - something like a babysitter substitute. We are seeing more and more parents with small children who, due to their workload, want to have some peace and quiet. This is understandable when you come home exhausted in the evening and then sit the toddlers in front of the tablet. Of course this method works. It is the digital dummy, so to speak. But all this also has massive side effects on the children. For example, it changes our communication behaviour, how we talk to each other and also how much we talk to each other, says neurobiologist Bernd Hufnagl.

Smartphones as a babysitter substitute
More and more often, young children are "sedated" or distracted with smartphones. Source: ORF

The dose of smartphone and toddler

Banning smartphones and tablets from one's own four walls cannot be the solution. Experts recommend being a role model in the use of digital media and not demonising them in general. The dose makes the poison, and I always call proper use brain-friendly. You should teach children from a certain age that the mobile phone is not just a toy, but also a tool, says neurobiologist Hufnagl.

Self-esteem must be developed in children

My contribution to this: The young generation can cope with the new media, often adults would worry about their children for no reason, but basically children should worry about adults when it comes to media. Having a smartphone and tablet is also about self-worth, because in social media there is constant comparison. And that's a very natural instinct to compare yourself to others, but on Instagram there will always be someone prettier, better or richer. That's why it's important that we develop self-worth in our children much earlier than our generation needed to.

We have a family rule: smartphones are forbidden at the dining table - except for the parents.

What should not be forgotten in all the discussions about smartphones and tablets is that six out of ten children will have a job in the future that they cannot yet imagine, and they are already learning the appropriate cultural techniques today.

#25 "Is the smartphone addictive?" with Bernd Hufnagl, neurobiologist and brain researcher

An architect only sees his finished product years later - if at all. Software is different: I still remember exactly how my first computer programme appeared on the screen - a real dopamine rush! Programming is addictive because the sense of achievement is immediate. I discuss what else hormones do to our brains when we use information technology with my guest today, Bernd Hufnagl.

July 20, 2021

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