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Back to Los padres y los regalos de Navidad
Francisco Javier Laspalas Pérez,, Professor of the School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra
Parents and Christmas gifts
If so-called 'smart' phones and other electronic devices are part of our family life, we should pay close attention to our children's 'per diem expenses media'. However, monitoring what they do with such devices does not seem to be the only way, nor the smartest way, to take precautions in this regard.
One of the most disturbing phenomena of our time is the degradation of the hobbies to which, driven by the market and its commercial interests, citizens indulge. Neil Postman, a famous German sociologist based in the USA, had the good sense to denounce such practices in two of his works: 'Amuse Yourself to Death: Public discourse in the Age of Show Business' and 'Technopolis: The Surrender of Culture to Technology'.
This problem is particularly evident during the Christmas holidays, which, in today's consumer society, tend to become a simple excuse to exchange gifts. And although adults are not immune to it, it particularly affects children and adolescents who, due to their lack of maturity, are the main potential victims of advertising. The entertainment of young people has always been problematic, because it can be an opportunity to contract serious vices. Not so for children, who used to be much more innocent. I fondly remember my childhood in a small town in Navarra, where I wandered with my friends without control. Some of our activities were highly inadvisable. For example, we would throw water on each other with disposable syringes previously used at the health center. However, nothing comes to my report that was especially harmful, neither for my moral Education , nor for my intellectual training .
I doubt very much that the same can be said of the entertainment that is said to 'besiege' our children today, promoted by powerful companies whose only goal is to sell their products. Apart from the fact that these are largely designed average to be addictive, which in itself is harmful, both their explicit contents and their hidden messages often have an enormous corrupting potential.
Video games, movies, TV series, websites, and even books, music and works of art of common consumption, are far from being 'formative', simply because they are not disseminated for that purpose, nor have their creators generally taken into account their impact on the public's convictions and behavior. What is in vogue is to gain market share and customer loyalty, or to display an abusive and irresponsible freedom of expression.
In view of this scenario, and particularly if so-called 'smart' phones and other electronic devices are part of our family life, we should pay close attention to our children's 'per diem expenses media'. However, monitoring what they do with such devices does not seem to be the only way, nor the smartest way, to take precautions in this regard. We can play with them, and make sure that the little ones learn to do it among themselves, which will greatly favor their socialization, or even on their own, without the need to resort to such importunate intermediaries.
When they grow up, I think it is very important to try to get them used to spend at least some of their free time on more serious things than usual. I have nothing against sports, especially if they are practiced, rather than just contemplated. I don't expect them to never go out with their friends to party or go to big concerts, nor do I expect them to dispense with media and computers altogether. What worries me is that this becomes their main or only interest.
I think that, if children and young people are passionate about reading, art, good music, or quality movies and theater, that will be very good, both for their programs of study, as well as for their character. And the same could apply to something as simple and beautiful as going for a walk to enjoy nature, climbing mountains or sailing. Activities, in my opinion, much better than undertaking expensive trips, more or less exotic, from which one ends up returning overexcited and dazed.
To come to appreciate beauty, whether created by God or imagined by man, is not easy. We have to progressively refine our taste. However, it is a very valuable experience, because it elevates us above ourselves and financial aid us to give more value to the spiritual than to the material. We should ask ourselves to what extent we can introduce our children to this wonderful world.