The Digital Jungle

Thirteen bright and articulate teenagers took to the stage at CosmoCaixa, Barcelona’s prestigious science museum, and gave their take on The Digital Jungle – the online world we are all learning to navigate with varying degrees of success. It was the culmination of months of hard work.

The talks were thought provoking, educational and at times funny, but what struck me most was the teenagers’ willingness to dig deep and talk about complex concerns they had about a world they don’t feel they have much, or any, control over. Themes included doom scrolling, trauma dumping and porn addiction.

These teens were essentially asking for help. Parents (me included) had put a smart phone in their hands and left them to get on with it, without thinking about the bigger picture.

It made me reassess my assumptive attitude to my own teenagers’ relationships with the online world. I’ve lost count of the times over the years when I told them to “stop scrolling” on “put your phone down” without inviting any further conversation.

So my biggest take away from the event was that parents need to communicate more with their children, and listen to what they have to say about how they are feeling. Despite what you may think – that they love playing on the screens as much as possible – they are actually asking for boundaries to be set for them and help and advice on how to navigate their online journey.

Here are just a few of the articles, movements and opinions around the subject that have caught my eye recently:

➡️ Join Smartphone Free Childhood – a parent led movement on a mission to protect children from the dangers of using smartphones too young

➡️ Read about the Luddite teens turning their back on smartphones and choosing flip phones instead

➡️ Read about the parents in a Barcelona barrio who want to discourage parents from giving mobiles to children under the age of 16

➡️ Listen to our podcast on the technology landscape and how it is shaping the minds and habits of our youngsters

➡️ Read Gaby Hinsliff’s article about the need to provide safe places to play we really want kids to spend less time online

➡️ Watch the speeches from the event at CosmoCaixa – available on the 4Voices YouTube channel shortly

If you’re overwhelmed by all the information out there on digital wellness and safety, maybe introducing ‘Smartphone Free Sundays’ could be your first achievable step.

Jane Mitchell