- Mum, mum, look!
Marta went to her son´s phone.
- Three thousand, four thousand, five thousand ... seven thousand ... ten thousand ... It wouldn´t stop. The WahstApp inbox kept on receiving messages. The thirteen-year-old boy had just plugged in the mobile phone his father had taken away three days earlier, on ´Martes de Campo´, as a punishment. The endless cataract of messages threatened to collapse the device. At last, it stopped: "Between 13,000 and 14,000 Whastapp messages in 72 hours!" His mother explains, still astonished ten days later.
"My son was surprised, but he took it rather with laughter. I reaffirmed myself in what I had already thought for a long time: that with telephones we are settled in madness and many times we do not realize. Not children, and which is worse, nor parents", she explains. And she provides a data, which can be exposed as a riddle to the reader of these lines. How many WhatsApp groups does Marta's son belong to, a thirteen-year-old teenager who had his first cell phone 16 months ago, when he turned 12? No, you will not even get close. The day before yesterday, on Sunday, the kid was integrated in 110 groups. In many cases, there are almost mathematical coincidences between the members of one and the other.
"Thus, I can explain that he received 14,000 messages in three days", Marta A. M. says, from Oviedo, a civil servant in a small town hall in Asturias. Her eldest son (she has two others, four and five years old) finishes these days the first ESO course at a high school in the west part of Oviedo. Marta and her husband were most restrictive when it came to buying a phone. For the Three Wise Men day, the boy went all in:
- I want the Three Wise Men to bring me a mobile phone. If I can´t have it, then I want nothing.
His parents remained firm. There was no telephone. In February, the boy turned twelve, and they thought that it was no longer possible to extend that "agony." The pressure seemed to have become unbearable. "It was the last of his class to have a mobile phone", his mother said. "He was so embarrassed that when his friends asked him for his number to include him in a group, he would give them mine, with my consent".
That is why Marta knows firsthand the "depth" of cyber-conversations of adolescents. When she made a quick review of the 14,000 messages received in the 72 intense hours, she found that many conversations began with a "Hello!" followed by several dozen "hello" of the other members of the group. Then came the "What´s up?" or similar, with several dozens of mostly irrelevant answers. At that time the celebrations of the district of Oviedo took place in La Florida, a circumstance that perhaps contributed to exacerbate the emotions of the adolescents.
Marta A. M. wants to "raise the alarm" about a situation that "many parents consider worrying, although it seems that few dare to say it out loud". Her call for attention is rational, it is based on common sense, and it is devoid of hysteria. "My son is not problematic, he has normal relationships, he gets good marks", she emphasizes. "My husband and I try to pay attention to the type of information that is exchanged and we have never seen anything particularly disturbing", she says. However, she observes that the abuse of the mobile phone "prevents children from communicating with each other, talking to their family, playing games, reading, having fun with other things... We clearly know that the money we spent on the mobile phone is the worst investment we ever made. She also warns about a very fundamental problem: the example of the adults. "When my son started to go to the high school, he was surprised that the students were not allowed to bring their mobile phones and, however, some teachers started typing in the middle of class while the students did class activities".
Marta A. does not surrender. She points out that her son recently attended a three-day English immersion camp where the phone could only be used for ten minutes a day. "He had lots of fun playing and learning". She goes out for walks with her eldest son for the sole purpose of talking to him and now plans a short trip to Portugal with the same goal: to detoxify him. In spite of his complicated age, maybe the kid is coming to his senses: "When he turned thirteen he asked us as for a new mobile phone, he wanted an Iphone. But he understood that was too much".