Laura Cuesta is an adjunct professor at the Camilo José Cela University of Madrid, where she teaches classes in communication, digital marketing, and social media. He has published numerous articles in the media on the responsible use of technology and is now presenting his first book: ‘Growing up with screens. How to Teach Your Kids to Use and Enjoy Technology Safely, Responsiblely’ (Editorial by Amat), thereby trying to shed some light on the current and controversial topic of digitization and screen use among young people.
While many voices blame technology for the ills of today’s youth and want to banish it from educational centers, Cuesta is clear: All technology must have a purpose. “That is why it is necessary to regulate its use and specify clear rules on where and how it can be used, just like any other resource related to students,” he argues.
listen Can you grow up without screens when they are everywhere?
Answer We live in a digital society where technology is widely implemented in our daily lives, whether we use it personally and professionally to communicate, work, educate or socialize. Therefore, our challenge as parents is to educate and train digital children who do not ‘own’ the technology to use it in a safe, healthy and responsible manner. Keeping them away from the screen is not going to make us avoid the dangers, only prevention and education can reduce or reduce them by giving us the tools to deal with them.
K. Why is technology blamed for so many ailments among teenagers?
R. Technology presents its risks and negative effects, especially among vulnerable groups such as children and adolescents. Its misuse, that is, its use without knowledge, is wrong and problematic, leading to problems related to the mental health of students, and their physical integrity; But this does not mean that all the cases presented have evidence to prove it. Many times we find that children and adolescents with pre-existing symptoms such as discomfort or agitation, anxiety, stress or depression symptoms, use technology or, in some cases, worsen their psycho-emotional condition. Therefore, as families, educators and society, we must always think about their well-being and health, be alert for any warning signs, and not just focus on the channel through which it develops.
K. What are the main benefits of using technology?
R. Benefits include automation of processes, use of digital platforms to improve collaboration and communication, adoption of new work methods and incorporating them into the decision-making process. Therefore, if we want to be a part of this reality, there is no doubt that we must use technology and educate our children with the necessary precautions so that they become part of the new environment around them in a safe way. Keeping them away from technology is no longer an option.
Through it, young people diversify the field of information and entertainment, often their interests; They socialize and communicate. While for some it may be a cause of social isolation, for others it is a tool that allows them to expand their circle of friends and support; In addition, it facilitates education and allows many minors, especially those from the most vulnerable families or those with disabilities, to access new content for free and online, which was impossible several years ago.
K. And its negative effects?
According to most current authors, there is a consensus that there is unequivocal evidence of the negative effect of children being exposed to screens (not only digital devices, but also television) at an early age. They all indicate American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): “Audiovisual content aimed at children under two years of age, even programs advertised as educational, has no effect on stimulating the child’s cognitive and social skills.” So, rather than limiting the time, what we need to do is to make sure that they do different activities, like using a tablet, they can paint or run around the park. Alternate, well-balanced, technology-free screen time with healthy leisure time.
On the other hand, there are also problems such as cybercrime (such as hoaxes and scams specific to children and adolescents on social networks) or digital harassment such as cyberbullying, sexting or grooming. However, more than misuse of technology or other dangers, overexposure to the Internet is the biggest concern for families today. This is not without meaning, as unsafe use of devices and the Internet can lead to other risks associated with new technologies.
K. What (active) role should families play in digital education? And teachers? Should they work together?
R. The most important job lies with parents, who must inculcate values and set a role model so that our children above all become sensible, respectful and empathetic people, with and without technology. We must prevent, educate about the risks, but, above all, educate in emotions, respect and people’s rights and duties. By encouraging critical thinking and good self-esteem in our children, the inappropriate content they see on the Internet will affect them less because it is completely impossible to prevent them from being exposed. Teachers complete this task, but families cannot delegate all responsibility for education to properly use technology in school.
K. What is Digital Mediation? How should it be handled at home and in the classroom?
R. On the one hand, families always ensure the health and well-being of our children. We provide them with education, food and care. But, in addition, today, in the era of digitization, a new term appears related to the work of fathers and mothers: parental mediation. This initiative aims to support minors in their digital literacy process by educating them so that they use new technologies responsibly and safely. Additionally, ensure technical risks are not operationalized and provide solutions if necessary.
On the other hand, in the classroom, centers and teachers should design programs based on educational technology to train students in using digital tools that encourage their creativity and innovation. Privacy, critical thinking and digital respect.
K. What do you think about the digital denial trend in educational institutions? What is the right way to use technology in the classroom?
R. We mistakenly think that technology is mobile phone, Instagram, TikTok and video games, and this reductionism makes us analyze only the balance between what these applications provide or benefit. And what harm to them. But technology, understood as a process of change and progress, is a collection of systems, tools, programs and applications that transform society, the use of which is a right declared by the United Nations.
Thus, this trend towards digitizing classrooms in an already digital society confuses pedagogy with a methodological and pedagogic objective in which technology is a complement to enhance students’ knowledge with the mobile yes or no mobile debate. In educational centers. Any tool used without a clear and defined purpose and objectives is meaningless, and the same goes for technology. Having smartphones in classrooms, unless they are included in a specific activity or project application, provides nothing but student distraction, so I don’t think it is necessary to legislate for their ban, but most have already done so. Centers, regulate its use and specify clear rules on where and how it can be used.
K. Tell us three basic tech things adults need to know to prevent little ones from having a bad digital experience.
R. Both families and teachers should be involved in the digital education of minors and accompany them throughout the digital literacy process. But first we must be the first to acquire the necessary digital skills to guide and train them. Having technology does not mean knowing about technology, therein lies the problem with education. For this reason, as the Ministry of Education and Training itself points out, “Digital competence refers to the safe, healthy, sustainable, meaningful and responsible use of digital technologies for learning, work and participation in society.” , as well as. encompassing our interactions with these technologies.”
Knowing what the technology is and how it works is important: understanding cybersecurity systems, teaching them how to configure their devices and applications; Well, we need to know how to maintain and protect privacy in the digital environment to teach them what digital footprint is and how it will affect them in the future. Last but not the least, talk to them about digital respect, which will help them move from physical environment to digital environment to fight against cyberbullying, rape and other cybercrimes committed online.