Burdziej: Children, flooded with IT solutions aimed at their addiction, have lost their freedom

Luc Williams

Jan Wróbel talks to Stanisław Burdziej

I sent a letter to Stanisław Burdziej, a civically engaged sociologist. I'm not surprised: the professor calls for the introduction of universal public service for young people. “Dear Sir, the thing about beautiful ideas is that when implemented, they lose their charm. I know that you are concerned about the development of the young generation being taken over by smartphones. And that you are researching the impact of the screen era on the condition of young people. You are not alone in your diagnoses, but to immediately propose service as an antidote? He wrote back and we talked.

Let me ask you for the first association: “young man”…

Headphones in ears, eyes following the screen. Posture: hunched, sitting. Rather at home. And at home he is virtually unsupervised, but when he leaves home, he is usually under the supervision of parents, educators, trainers, teachers and specialists. Jonathan Haidt, an American social psychologist, wrote in the well-known book “The Anxious Generation” that two parallel things are happening to young people. First, there was an end to free play. Secondly, childhood has moved to electronic devices, especially smartphones.

A typical Polish alarm begins with the help of American scientists…

I am a Polish sociologist and a Polish parent, but I see how accurate Haidt's observations are in relation to our reality. Take, for example, the transformation that the Internet has undergone. Stage one: From the dawn of the computer age until around 2010, PCs dominated. Stage two: in 2010, there was a revolutionary, although initially little noticed, shift towards mobile devices with touch screens that could handle a huge number of applications – including social media. As long as Facebook only worked on PCs, it didn't accompany us everywhere. But since we have smartphones in our pockets, this whole social world literally goes with us. We can track how many different indicators of youth mental health have fallen over the last 15 years. The percentage of hospitalizations in children due to mood disorders more than quadrupled between 2010 and 2022. The number of suicide attempts by children and adolescents has increased fivefold over the last 10 years. Polish children are increasingly declaring a sense of loneliness and a decrease in the number of friends and time spent on free play. The turning point of these trends was around 2010. It is difficult to explain it otherwise than the advent of the era of smartphones…



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