Within the framework of the “A believer’s reading of our current reality” program, the Higher Institute of Pastoral, of the Pontifical University of Salamanca, together with the Pedro Poveda Chair, organized on October 17th, in Madrid, the conference: “Digital era: techno addictions, techno pornography, techno violence; looking at a new social challenge” presented by Ángel Manuel Turbi Pinazo, doctor in Psychology and Health Sciences, professor at the Catholic University of Valencia and developer of different programs on addictive behaviors.
New hierarchy of needs
Professor Turbi said that, in Maslow's pyramid of needs, the base has changed. That, now, we have to place internet, Wi-Fi and mobile phone in that base, because "without those elements we are nobody." He says it with a humorous tone, but affirming, at the same time, that it is a perfect description of the irruption of technology in our lives and of its enormous influence.
Video games, the Smartphone and its many applications, cyber work, the online shopping and the cyber communication have changed family and social relationships, styles of work, and daily life. These tools are useful, but they can also create dangerous addictions -especially the online games (which are spreading uncontrollably), the techno violence and the techno pornography.
Internet pornography is a fact that we barely talk about, but the reality is that many young people access it and it is becoming quite normal. That results in seeing sex and affection as two independent things. It also reinforces macho behaviors, opens doors to the use of prostitution and the use of chemical drugs.
Regarding the techno violence, it takes many forms: “sexting” or sending videos or photos of a sexual nature using social networks -with the risk of subsequent economic or sexual blackmail by the recipient (sextortion); grooming or coaxing through the networks to get photos and videos that then some pedophiles use for blackmailing. Cyberbullying, which is the well-known bullying, but not in a specific place and time but 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, which is what social networks allow us to do.
Diagnosis and key actions
Given these addictions and perverse uses of the new technologies, the diagnosis of Professor Turbi is that they have overwhelmed us, and that we have reacted late, because we had no vision for the future and we believed that these things were not going to happen.
Preventing these pathologies means changing the educational models; because it is proven that the previous ones have not worked.
The initial starting point is to recognize that it makes no sense to try to change reality. We have to look at the changes that are taking place; inform about them; analyze their impact; raise awareness of the threats and opportunities they entail, and see how to manage them properly. It is clear that so far something has failed.
The educational model on which to operate has the added difficulty of a digital gap in which the learners are the experts, because they are digital natives, while the educators are not. In order to connect with students, the educators must begin by adapting themselves to technologies that are new and that are changing at a dizzying pace.
It's hard, but we have to do it. And the key to all this is a firm commitment to a comprehensive psycho-affective education, which may help young people to have a personal project and a meaning in life. Without leaving that framework, the solution should not be to prohibit the use of digital tools, but the balance in such use; define the times and spaces for their use and with controls adapted to each age. We have to be aware that everything that is placed into the network stays there and that not everything that is there is true, but rather it has to be checked with other sources. In short, to educate in a responsible use of technology.
Text: Alejandro Córdoba, Madrid.
Translation: C. Zabalegui and R. Cameron.