Screens, kids and “digital hysteria” – Insights from the Book “Digital Hysteria” by Georg Milzner

Insights from the Book “Digital Hysteria” by Georg Milzner

Screens have become ubiquitous in our civilization, and the specter of deterioration and intellectual decline due to digital media is causing anxiety among parents and young adults.

Here, I’d like to briefly outline a book that critically yet positively explores the psychological impacts of this development on children.

The author, Georg Milzner, a psychologist, consistently emphasizes the role of parents as role models in handling media, since digitalization significantly influences our behavior as adults.

On average, adults spend over 90 minutes a day online on their smartphones, according to a study.

Of course, most (if not all) important life experiences happen offline.

Still, dealing with digital media today is as much a part of our culture as reading, for example.

Milzner compares computers and video games to books and the use of paper. Just because defamatory texts or erotic images can be printed on paper, the medium is not banned or subject to time restrictions.

Since using tablets or computers makes accessing unwanted content easier, parents need to invest more effort in guidance and supervision.

Milzner does not condemn digital media and video games. He likens the frequent criticism of video games to other activities like playing board games or reading books, where one also does not move, and whose quality could also be questioned.

He further points out that problematic relationship and communication patterns within the family can manifest as a child retreating into digital media and games. It’s another medium through which a child can escape reality, just like music, reading, TV, etc. According to Milzner, it’s essential to offer a balanced media diet and for parents to show interest in their child’s enthusiasm and accompany them into their gaming worlds. This helps the child feel better understood.

A suppressed urge to play often leads to aggressive behavior, says Milzner.

Therefore, you shouldn’t snatch a tablet from your child’s hands just because they’ve exceeded the allotted time. You wouldn’t do that with a book either. A child engrossed in a story needs time to transition out of it.

One option could be to play together for the last 5 minutes. The child will likely be excited and eager to share their heroic deeds…

According to Milzner, there are no reliable studies proving that children become dumber or unhealthier by playing computer games. He even suggests that these children are generally healthier, more social, and more intelligent. Enthusiasm is good for health. And a child is socially integrated when they can talk with their friends about current games or strategies.

Children, just like adults, want to create something meaningful and receive recognition. They are happy when others share their enthusiasm. This simple affirmation leads to a sense of community, rather than the emotional divide that arises when a child feels they are being watched with concern.

Milzner also talks about the need for an ethics of attention.

Since attention is a highly coveted commodity, marketing efforts are fiercely directed towards capturing it.

It is important to have times when we can give our children our undivided attention and engage in activities together.

According to Milzner, our children will need to master both: the digital worlds and the ability to manage themselves and take care of their own attention.

Link to the book: Digital Hysteria by Georg Milzner