Marian Rojas Estapé He is a psychiatrist, member of the Spanish Institute for Psychiatric Research and almost a celebrity in the dissemination of knowledge. Since 2007, he has given lectures inside and outside of Spain on stress, couples, personality, education of children and happiness. After selling more than 200,000 copies of his book How to make good things happen to you, he has just published Find your person vitamin. At CEDE executive congress, gave a presentation in which he explained how to combat the toxic side of screens and social networks.
What toxic effect have new technologies and social networks brought to the world of work?
The world of technology has saved us in the age of pandemic, but misused, it negatively affects our brain. The problem is that when we live in a state of constant uncertainty, stress or negativity as has happened in the pandemic, we look for quick escape routes and the screen is. Therefore, we get used to the instant gratification that screens, social networks generate for us. The negative is that, that the social network becomes something addictive, an escape route that controls my life and that I am not able to control. New technologies have turned us into emotional drug addicts and have turned the world economy into the economy of attention, making us constantly seek that instant gratification, so today we do not know how to wait. But the important things in life, love and a job well done, are not achieved by instant gratification, but with time and effort.
What effect do screens have on children?
The prefrontal cortex is the area that is responsible for attention, problem solving and impulse control, which makes us higher beings. When a baby is born, the prefrontal cortex is very immature, maturing as the years go by. Activating a baby’s attention is achieved with three things: light, sound and movement. When they mature, attention is expected to be activated by other stimuli such as a talk, a work of art, a book, not just light, sound and movement. If I give a baby a tablet, when his prefrontal cortex is immature, since the human brain works by the mechanism of “either use it or lose it” … what we achieve is that it does not develop that attention. We need children who have criteria, who are able to read, to concentrate and for that, we must strengthen the prefrontal cortex. Excessive use of the screen means that the prefrontal cortex of young people is not maturing correctly. The consequence is the famous TDH, the lack of attention and impulse control, 10% of the world’s children diagnosed with TDH. Giving a child a mobile is like putting a minibar in the bathroom and having them take a shot every time they get frustrated. It is necessary to postpone the use of the screen in children. If it is difficult for us to disconnect from the mobile phone, for children it is disastrous. This is the first time in history that children are less intelligent than their parents.
To protect our brain and prefrontal cortex, should we learn to live and work away from social media?
We need to be the ones to master the device and not the other way around. My recommendation is to work as far away from the WhatsApp, social media and topics that distort the ability to concentrate. The famous multitasking does not exist as such, what happens in the brain is a continuous alternation of attention, we change our focus of attention very quickly but at the same time we lose efficiency. Therefore, if we work while we are connected to social networks or WhatsApp, our productivity is reduced, as well as our ability to concentrate and make the most of time. I also recommend removing notifications from the screens and postponing the reward, that is, not looking at the screen every minute and reconnecting with reality. Cortisol (stress hormone) intoxication that we suffer is fought with oxytocin (pleasure hormone). That is why, after so long locked up, without contact with other people, we need human connection, smile, hug.
You are the mother of four children. How do you educate a child today on the margins of the screens?
We cannot expect children to do things that we do not do. The first tip is that when we are with the children, we pay attention to them without the mobile in hand. That lunches and dinners are without devices on the table. The key is that our children know that they can count on our full attention when they need us, looking into their eyes without the phone in hand. It is also important to let them get bored, boredom is the cradle of creativity, when you get bored things happen.