Destroyer of myths, blogger, and mother of three children, the
journalist María Zabala Pino, after working 20 years in the areas of
communication strategies and public relations, has devoted herself to
the digital world and the digital formation of parents and children.
She has a fun web page. :



When I speak with parents about issues of technology and children, I remind
them that there are studies that help us to have a point of calm, because I
believe that it is always good to calm oneself so as not to feel guilty,
because with a sense of guilt or with fear, you go nowhere. There is a
study by Gallup that says that at the end of the forties, 21 per cent of
young people read, and that in 2005, 47 per cent of children read. Children
do not read less. People do not read less either. And the Pew Research
Internet Project, in a study from 2014, says that young people read more
today than before. And they do more than adults. We don’t have to be afraid
that children don’t read. Although it may appear to us to be the opposite,
now people read more than in the forties, children read more than adults,
and more than before. Finally, a study by the Spanish Kaiser Foundation on
the reading habits of children between 8 and 18 years old, says that in
fact reading of the printed word has been reduced, but when it is broken
down it is seen that what has drastically descended is the reading of
magazines—I read many magazines in the eighties, I read Superpop,
and teen magazines. Now children do not read those, they read books, not

And when you go to studies like Mobile Kids: The Parent, the Child and the Smartphone carried out
by the Nielsen Company, the relationship of children with smartphones,
tablets, etc., reading is what they do the least: They mostly do text
messaging (81%), download apps (59%), or they play (53%). Therefore,
whether they read a lot or a little, they don’t read much on electronic
devices. And when you ask them, they say they prefer to read or study on
paper. And a psychologist and specialist in media, Yalda T. Uhls, says for
one thing that if you have young people to whom you give a text to read and
then you ask them for a commentary of the text, there is no difference in
comprehension between those children who have read on an electronic device
and those children who have read on paper.

The comprehension is the same…

Yes. When they are studying, if the child is reading or highlighting in his
notebook or is reading on a tablet and highlighting with his finger on the
tablet, the retention is the same. That’s why what I try to explain to
parents: after 8 years of age, when the child has already learned to read,
and what he needs is to keep reading no matter what the medium is through
which the content arrives. What counts is that we give him the tools so
that he knows how to read, create, review, etc. Learning trough reading is
what counts.


Children learn to read and we concentrate on that. According to the age of
the children, who are learning to read, they tell you to read with them,
you establish reward systems, if you read a chapter I’ll give you…. The way
of codifying the letters changes—p with a, pa—this has modified, new
systems of learning are developed. There are three fundamental elements:
the content, the context and the child himself. They’re called the three
C’s. When one reads, he has to understand what he is reading, the
“content”. There is a context. And then there is the child, because not all
children read the same way, not all of them interiorize what they are
reading, not all of them have the same capacity to apply their voluntary
attention. We live in a world in which our involuntary attention is
over-excited, because electronic devices are hoarders of involuntary
attention, we look and we don’t need to do anything else, everything is
given to us already done, we are passive consumers. We must teach children
to exercise their voluntary attention in what they need to think. Reading
is a way of exercising voluntary attention.

According to the experts, it makes no difference in the technical part if
you are reading on paper, with a school textbook, or with a tablet or
computer. You learn to put A together with B, you learn that a comma is one
kind of pause and a period another, and you can hear the voice of someone
who tells you how to read. On the part of the knowledge, the part of the
child and the part of the content, it is also a little independent what the
source of the reading is. But the part of the context is the part that the
adult gives the child. When you do a dialogic reading with your child, or
with your student, you are inviting him to transcend what he is reading and
to relate it to the real world: this is the context. Here it seems that the
retention is a little better when the child reads than when he does it on a
screen, but the key element is the adult involved in the reading with this


We have the problem of common opinion: children are stuck to a screen, the
tablet fries their brains. And we get bogged-down with the subject of time
with the screen. And not all screen time is the same. There is good screen
time. What doesn’t make sense is useless screen time, totally passive for
the child, and also prolonged. The child can play with Martians for half an
hour, and won’t wind up dazed because of it.

Screen time is frequency, it’s content, and it’s company. In frequency it
depends on what the child is doing. If he’s watching a film you’ll
have to give him an hour and a half, at weekends, because on weekdays he
hasn’t got to be watching films. In my house, for example, electronic
devices are for the weekends. If it’s playing with Martians, you can give
him half an hour, because if you don’t, he’s not going to be able to move
up to the next level, and the child needs to move on to the next level
because there is a gratification, a boost of self-esteem that is good. With
an app for putting letters together, well perhaps he could spend 20


Another problem is that we’re leaving children with YouTube videos, without
any filters and without choosing, for forty-five minutes to keep them
quiet. I, who am not critical with parents, tell you that this is not to
our advantage. And it isn’t that difficult to change it.

At these ages, what do they see in YouTube?

They see cartoons they like. At these ages—from zero to eight years old,
it’s proven, according to a study by the Autonomous University of Barcelona
and the Autonomous of Madrid, the technological customs that they have,
have to do with their passions. They don’t watch strange things. If they
like legos, they look for things about legos, if they like playmobil, they
look for things about playmobil, if it’s Barbie, they look for things about
Barbie, or books about Barbie.


What needs to be encouraged is talking with the child, knowing what he
likes. If you have a six-year-old child, you know what school he goes to,
more or less the name of his little friends, what his teacher’s name is, he
tells you that they are reading such-and-such book in school, that he’s
learned the letter P, whether he likes swimming class. Unlike these
chartered territories, the technological lives of our children are unknown
for us. Because we tend to leave them and let them deal with it
themselves—“take the tablet and search for it” or “Mommy, I want to play”,
and you download an application that is about planes, “Here”–. In the
education that we’re giving children now, up to about eight years of age
more or less, they use technology to make a prolongation of what they like
in real life. But we don’t always know what they do when they’re online.
Because if they like videogames, we don’t usually play with them. We don’t
know what they like. And when they outgrow that age, what we do, without
noticing, is give them more technological autonomy than in real life: you
don’t let them buy bread by themselves, you don’t let them take the bus,
but you let them have a mobile phone, download an app. You don’t let them
leave the house, but you let them download applications without having to
ask your permission. And you don’t know what app they downloaded. And in
the world of apps, it isn’t all the same. And there are places where you
can find information about which apps are good and which aren’t.

First of all, you’ve got to download the app. Because I have seen
seven-year-old children that download an app, because there isn’t a
password on the tablet, and after all, since it’s free….The device gets
full of useless applications, you don’t know which one the child uses or
for how long, there are damaging, or false…there has to be a process of
choosing what you put in your children’s hands.


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