Internet, video games, social networks. Raise your hand to that parent who, after all, does not consider them a waste of time, taken away from school, face-to-face relationships, sports and healthy growth. But is it really so? We talked about it with him psychologist and psychotherapist Matteo Lanciniauthor, together with Loredana Cirillo, of the book «Children of the internetJust released for Erickson editions.
To protect our children from the dangers of the Internet, does it make sense to try to keep them away from the Internet?
“Keeping children off the internet isn’t like keeping them off drugs: if a child comes into contact with drugs once, a parent hopes it will never happen again. The Internet – we must finally understand this – is part of the growth system, of the world we have created. Today this definition of “onlife” is used a lot, to testify that there is no longer a clear distinction between real life and virtual life. Having said that, it is clear that we must consciously bring our children closer to the Internet ».
At what age can children approach the web?
«Very often we look for ideal recipes, which should be suitable for everyone, while I think that every boy and every girl needs different resources, according to their functioning. In any case, the meaningful use should start from pre-adolescence and adolescence (even if there is some contact even in the previous phases, and children should never be left alone while they are having this experience) ».
To what extent can the parent have and can control the virtual life of their children?
“In the long run, control, both in real and virtual life, is not the ideal way to raise teenagers, because, in the end, they will have to make the choices. If a parent controls the child until he becomes an adult, he does not mean that he has done his job well, on the contrary: there is something wrong with the child, that even when he has grown up he agrees to submit to the control. of parents “.
What are the red flags that should alert a parent?
“It’s not just – as is often thought – a matter of hours spent in front of the screen. Instead, it is necessary to evaluate whether the Internet is used alone or if the Internet helps to cultivate socialization: it is preferable that both video games and social networks promote the relationship with others. On the other hand, the use linked to the so-called is more problematic information overload, the continuous search for information or videos, content without interaction. There are also cases of school or social withdrawal, but it is not that, by removing the internet, the problems are solved. This is a simplification of adults: we must instead understand the reasons for the difficulty that a child can encounter in participating in group initiatives or in finding new friends ».
But, in the end, are video games good or bad?
«The point is not that they do good or bad in an absolute sense, but what is the meaning they assume in the story of the boy who uses them, what function they perform in the experimentation processes of their own bodily and relational endowments. Today virtual squares (social networks) and virtual battles (video games) replace the “courtyard games”, those spontaneous play spaces – courtyards, gardens – that adults have wanted to close for some time ».
Do social media help adolescents solve typical age crises or do they exacerbate them?
«Social media today represent the interaction between real and virtual encounter. There are risks in social media, just like there are in the real world. There may be someone who makes us suffer, who does not make us feel appreciated, it may happen that we are not successful in the group as in virtual life. Today it no longer makes sense to consider the internet “virtual”: it depends on what use you make of it. It is a wider environment in which different experiences are made ».
But parents tend to be a little scary.
“Parents, despite living a real and virtual life intertwined in a single dimension every day, continue to look at the internet as if it were something detached from reality, but only as regards their adolescent children. In Italy, from 19 years upwards, that is when adolescence ends, if you don’t use the internet you are doomed in every field: you cannot enroll at university, have relationships, enter a work field. But from the age of 18, the internet is considered an addiction: it is one of the frailties of adults. The anxieties of the society we have created are projected on the internet: if you are not successful you are nobody and fights are the order of the day. But it is adults who promote this culture, and not only on the Web, but also through television broadcasts ».
And friendships benefit from it or do they come out impoverished?
«Already from the first research on the subject it was revealed that the children who socialized the most at school were those who also did so in the afternoon. This struck us a lot: according to a widespread stereotype, those who use the internet are the “timid”, who otherwise would have real relationships. On the other hand, those with more interpersonal skills are also more active in social lives. Friendships beyond the control of adults enrich, have an evolutionary function ».
Is there a need for control over what our children post?
“This is not the method that really works: today more than ever we should annex the internet to the newspaper, talk about it at the table in the evening. It is only by integrating it into life, even at school, that we will be able to help children to make better use of it or to report to us if there is suffering, if there is disproportionate use. The strict rules and the formulas imposed only serve to contain an unprecedented adult frailty ».
Source: Vanity Fair