The wave of ‘anti-mobile’ parents spreads throughout Spain: no telephone until the age of 16

A wave of awareness about the need to delay the delivery of the first mobile phone to children is sweeping Spain. From Barcelona, ​​where the initiative began to gain strength a week ago, to all corners of the country, thousands of parents have joined together in a virtual community that seeks to stop the harmful effects of smartphones on the development of the little ones.

It all started in the Poblenou neighborhood, in the Catalan capital, when a group of parents created a Telegram group to fight against the supposed “social consensus” that minors had to receive a telephone at the age of 12, many of them, as a First Communion gift or when they enter high school. «My son turned 12 on Sunday and he doesn’t have a cell phone nor will he have one. But in his class almost everyone has it,” was one of the first messages in this group, which advocates not giving a phone to teenagers before, at least, the age of 16. That first cry of resistance has spread like a civic tide that tries to make political and educational administrations aware of the dangers, more than proven, of leaving such a useful tool in the hands of minors who are not sufficiently trained, but perhaps as dangerous as a phone with internet. The Poblenou group has almost 10,000 members, and in the rest of Spain, there are already thousands more parents who participate in accounts inspired by the same idea.

The negative impact of mobile phones on children’s education is no longer under discussion. The latest Unesco report on education and technology states that “the mere fact of being near a mobile device distracts students and has a negative effect on learning.” In the same sense, the international organization warns that “the perception of teachers is that the use of tablets and phones makes classroom management difficult” because they slow down students’ attention during classes and encourage bullying. According to a study by the National Institute of Statistics (INE), 85% of children between 12 and 14 years old already have a mobile phone.

And yet, in Spain, only Castilla-La Mancha and Galicia, in 2014, and Madrid, in 2020, have banned cell phones in classrooms. Catalonia announced this Thursday that in January it will send guidelines to educational centers to regulate the use of the telephone and presented a report that shows that 52.77% of the centers already have this regulation planned in their internal rules: of this percentage, the 26.24% do not allow it to be taken to the center and 43.74% do not allow its use at school. Also within that 52.77%, 16.10% of schools allow the use of mobile phones in designated areas; 11.69% only in the patio; 66.90% at specific times and at the discretion of the teachers; 45.98% allow it in any classroom for educational uses; and 3.08% have regulated “free use in the center.”

Most communities leave the decision up to the centers and many schools allow it, with the excuse that the use of technologies is part of the educational curricula, protected by the legislation of the autonomous communities, which has focused on recent years in promoting the use of screens in classrooms. Thus, there are autonomies that boast of having included or reinforced content such as the improvement of skills in artificial intelligence. The fine line between learning to use digital technologies and the difficulties that mobile phones introduce in classrooms is at the center of the debate.

But what there is no doubt about is the negative consequences of cell phone use for children, a dynamic that has tired parents and that is expressed in very different ways. “We face all kinds of problems: psychological, emotional, behavioral and physical,” explains David Cortejoso, a psychologist specializing in new technologies. “The situation is getting out of hand for many parents, who see that their children abandon their good habits, do not sleep, reduce their academic performance, give up sports, suffer from eating disorders and suffer explosive mood swings,” says this expert. , which confirms that the difficulties faced by young people due to cell phones began a long time ago.

“The strange thing is that it took us two decades to realize it,” says Cortejoso, who supports the mobilizations of the Telegram groups and sends, above all, a message. «There is a lot of social pressure on parents for their children not to be the ‘weird ones’ who don’t have a cell phone. Well, that’s all nonsense. It has been proven that adolescents who do not have a telephone are not excluded and continue to hang out with their friends. “Don’t sell us the motorcycle,” he emphasizes. And in this sense, he remembers that social networks such as Whatsapp, Facebook or TikTok establish a minimum age in the European Union, 14 or 16 years, for their users. «It is not possible for there to be children under that age with profiles. And it is true that the police are not going to go to the home of the parents who allow it, but the parents have to know that if at any time something happens, they are the ones who will have to respond.

Meanwhile, more and more families are joining the Telegram groups in their neighborhoods and cities. “Joining forces to confront the problem of screens among girls, boys and adolescents” is the objective that unites all of them and that has opened a path in which the possibility of registering a popular initiative in Congress is already being considered. of Deputies or hold demonstrations to pressure legislators. In Poblenou, origin of the ‘anti-mobile’ tide, parents have published a consensus document with, among others, these conclusions: “We continue to reiterate that our objective is to empower families who want to postpone the arrival of mobile phones in life of their children. Reduce social pressure in purchasing and break an entrenched dynamic that assumes the arrival of the mobile phone with entry into high school; For this to be possible, we believe that it is essential to restrict the access and use of smartphones in educational centers in the mandatory stages and provide them with the resources to make this regulation effective.

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