- “Let’s start the school year with joy and a thirst for knowledge. Let our children enjoy full live communication”, wishes the head of Plovdiv pediatrics Prof. Ivan Ivanov for the first day of school
Prof. Dr. Ivan Ivanov is a specialist in pediatric diseases and pediatric neurology. He graduated from VMI “I.P. Pavlov” in 1987 with the Hippocratic Medal. Graduate of the English Language High School in Plovdiv. He has a master’s degree in public health and health management. Specializes in Israel, Austria and France. Since 1988, he has been an assistant at the MU – Plovdiv, and since 2011, a professor at the Department of Pediatrics and Medical Genetics. Since 2006, he has been the head of the Department of Pediatric Neurology, and since 2014, the head of the Pediatrics Clinic at UMBAL “St. Georgi”, Plovdiv. Founder of the Research Center for Child Development at the MU – Plovdiv. He is the author of 114 scientific publications, 31 of them in international publications. Member of 8 European and Bulgarian scientific organizations.
The influence of social networks and the Internet on the younger generation is becoming more and more serious and irreversible. Young people worldwide are beginning to limit live contacts at the expense of extended time in electronic media. This reduction leads to the loss of social skills and the inability to build new ones.
The head of the Pediatrics Clinic at St. George UMBAL EAD – Plovdiv, Prof. Dr. Ivan Ivanov, investigated the matter. He points out that we live in a transition period of a rapidly developing technological world with the ability to receive a huge amount of information in seconds. In terms of science, this is a huge progress and advantage. For social communication, the damage is significant. A term “virtual autism” has already been introduced for children who, due to prolonged time in front of an electronic screen, fall behind in their social-communicative skills and develop manifestations of real autism.
Obsession with the virtual world – makes the real one uninteresting. “Walking along this inclined plane, one can see that direct speech, intonation, posture, gaze, facial expression, gesture gradually lose their place in communication. Children prefer to spend hours on the Internet and become apathetic, even alien to the world around them. In the virtual space, they process dozens of times more information faster and more intriguingly, which is why living life bores them”, says Prof. Ivanov.
He’s not the only one who’s seen kids standing next to each other on the bench and each looking at each other’s phone while communicating through it because it’s easier. It requires only the ability to type quickly on a keyboard and to be able to execute some word order, as short as possible with abbreviations. Look, contact, speech, dialogue, which require more effort, are not needed.
According to him, on the one hand, we cannot fail to comply with the modern world. But on the other hand, realizing how serious the deficits are, we should try to promote traditional communication, because it gives man much more opportunities and aspirations. It allows building skills to express your opinion and achieve your goals in the group and society.
“Time on the internet takes away the ability to analyze and question what you see, because the system’s algorithm only shows things we like. Children cannot develop or lose their critical thinking and depersonalize themselves”, explains the professor.
He clarifies that the filtering of information on social networks does not give competition to personal opinion. The low vaccination coverage against CoVID19 is a clear example. People “surround” themselves on social media by like-minded people and do not have access to the opposite opinion. In addition, they believe that the information received in a new way – from social networks – is more reliable than that transmitted through traditional newspapers and television.
“These are the risks that we have to resist and it especially affects children in the adolescent age, because they are being built as individuals, they must then be influenced in the right way so that they can become valuable individuals, yes cannot be easily controlled and able to express their opinion. But this is a global problem, valid for the modern world. Each one of us must be aware of it, all parents must understand what is happening to their children”, appeals the pediatrician.
The quest to limit time spent in front of electronic media is proving to be a difficult task for both parents and educators. A number of organizations conduct surveys and issue recommendations on a daily basis. The American Pediatric Association and the American Society for Child and Adolescent Psychology provide WHO-approved recommendations for the average amount of time spent on the Internet per day and the need to discuss the information received with a parent.
Today, knowledge itself is no longer as valuable as it was decades ago. The ability to quickly extract complete and accurate information, analyze it critically and use it for the intended purpose is valuable. In this sense, one of the ways to improve students’ informational and social skills is the implementation of group projects. Thus, children are taught to work in a team, to rely on each other for their skills.
“It is necessary to familiarize parents with the problem and for them to be able to control the smartphones, tablets, laptops and televisions used by their children. To be informed about negative effects in terms of social communication and to promote their use as an information source that does not replace a look and a hug”, Prof. Ivanov said in conclusion.
“Let’s start the school year with joy and a thirst for knowledge. Let our children enjoy full live communication. And we, the pediatricians from Plovdiv, eagerly await the start of work on the new building, for which thousands of children of Plovdiv donated work, emotions and hopes for two years in a row. Funds have been provided by the state for the construction of the building, the medical facility has also allocated financial resources. The announcement of a public procurement is pending, so we look to the future with hope,” Prof. Ivanov concluded.