Serbian children first in Europe in screen time

When the results of the comprehensive study titled “Children of Europe on the Internet 2020” were published, children in Serbia topped the list in the number of hours they spend online every day to much surprise of everyone except psychologists and addiction experts, who have been working with children and young people addicted to playing video games and social networks for years.

This study, covering 33 European countries, also showed that Serbia has the highest percentage of children who use social networks before the prescribed age of 13 – almost half of our children have a social media profile.

The study also showed that as many as two-thirds of children and young people never use the Internet for creative purposes, such as sharing content they have created themselves – our students use the Internet mainly for entertainment, i.e. watching video clips and listening to music, communicating with friends and playing video games. Also, the fact that about 80 percent of children in Serbia spend between six and eight hours a day on the Internet is particularly worrying.

At the recent scientific forum held by the Mental Health Institute, psychiatrists warned that there is a trend the declining number of alcohol and drug addicts at the Institute’s Addiction Clinic, but also a significant increase in the number of so-called non-chemical addicts, i.e. pathological gamblers and Internet and video game addicts. However, sociologists and psychologists are united in the opinion that the causes of mass murders and the increase in aggression in our society is not particularly influenced by the fact that children spend too much time playing aggressive video games.

“There is strong proof which shows that, for instance, in Asian countries, where playing the so-called shooter video games is a national sport, and where the best players enjoy the same kind of popularity as Novak Đoković does in our country, no one carries out murders in a video-game style, nor is there an increase in children’s aggression. All social sciences and the link have long researched the link between children, aggression and violent video games may exist, but studies show that children who play very violent video games generally come from dysfunctional families where aggression is often the ‘currency’ of communication. The causes of aggression are akin to a chicken-and-egg dilemma rather than being a linear relationship between playing aggressive video games and aggressive behaviour in a child. Children are not raised by video games, but by parents who are their first agents of socialization and identification, as well as their role models. Aggression is learned in the family, that is, through behavioural models that society promotes. Our culture promotes people who should not be present in the media space at all and with whom children unfortunately identify”, warns Dr. Dalibor Petrović, Professor at the Belgrade Faculty of Philosophy’s Department of Sociology.

Ana Mirković, a psychologist and co-founder of the Digital Communications Institute, points out that the results of the Children of Europe on the Internet study show that children in Serbia spend the most time online during weekends, i.e. when families should spend time together.

“As a psychologist, I have no doubt that a child who spends eight hours a day online is almost completely excluded from family life, because a functional family will not allow the child to be alone almost all day. I know video games are extremely popular, but the amount of time they spend in the online world needs to be discussed and negotiated with children. I also often ask my son: ‘How many hours do you spend on the Internet’, so when I hear an answer that worries me, I ask him: ‘And how many hours do you spend with your friends, playing outside?’ When I give lectures and hold workshops about peer violence and the dangers lurking on the Internet, I often hear from parents this: ‘My child refuses to leave the game’ or ‘He wants to be online all day’ and I wonder how we got to the point where children decide what they want or don’t want. If we allow a 10- or 12-year-old to make their own decisions, how should we react if they want to drive a car at that age or take drugs,” Mirković adds.

(Politika, 14.05.2023)

This post is also available in: Italiano

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