When my eldest son was in his 5th grade, we asked him what he wanted as a birthday present. If he had asked me at his age, he would probably have said, “A game of yaquis or parchís. go to the movies… a tape recorder.” As a male, unlike me, I naturally hoped he had replied: “A ball… a glove… a cassette of new animated… skates,” even the ones I would have asked for. When he replied, “An original YuGiOh card game,” I was out of breath.
I searched and searched my memory, without finding anything with a similar name, much less that appropriated for birthday gifts (Spanish, American decks maybe, but are you?!). Almost in unonuming his father and I looked at each other in a gesture that tried to disguise our disrecognise, while seeming in his sight intelligent and fashionable parents… as a kind of emergency complicity in the face of the impact of knowing ourselves ignorant in front of our own son.
That direct and spontaneous phrase was also said with all the right of the firstborn to free expression and exercise of autonomy that we always stimulate, as part of our educational style. We were intended to form in him and his brother an identity of our own, solid, free, responsible, capable of serving them of emotional and spiritual strength for the present and the future.
However, even, it seems that we were not ready to face the snobistic, media and technological wave that was coming, and for which our intention was fully good and compromised, but the effect was yet to be verified. As soon as the fruit of our harvest took place, in my mind was that phrase that I heard from the Argentine psychoanalyst Alfredo Grande “… the concept of dog does not bark”: it is not enough with the intention, beyond the objective we need a strategy that leads to concrete results.
The information we had at the time was reduced to comments, speculations, alarmed parents in consultation; outrage, complaints and coercive methods of some teachers to restrict and/or eliminate the use of those threatening cards of adult tranquility. We therefore decided to inform ourselves, and with whom better than with our own son. It was also a greatest formative for us to cultivate a personalized bond that would allow us to know about their behavior and decisions, directly by them and not through third parties.
He explained to us what the game consisted of, of which we knew only those rare and colorful letters, and how the child spent hours engrossed in it and showing it to others. It consists of a duel between two or four people. Each duelist has a deck of cards named deck with a minimum of forty-one maximum of sixty, and eight thousand initial health points in their favor. The duel is won by the one who reduces the opponent or opponent’s points, or their deck, deck or deck to zero, to none.
According to what we knew about the characteristics and needs of age, the game fully satisfied them: socialization, positioning within the group of contemporaries, even empowerment, not even counting the memory training that required learning the characteristics and effect of more than five thousand different cards, as well as all possible combinations of these in a strategy that would allow it to reach the final goal.
From a cognitive point of view according to what we already knew, it integrated all the stimuli for a comprehensive learning linked to the intellectual and emotional development of the boys, conclusion not only resulting from the observation but also from the experience: we played it, we printed decks and fields (kind of cardboard plane where the deck was placed), we saw the series, we advised with boys and girls who were already experts Even parents! Cards varied in scope and restrictions or freedoms in terms of their effect, and somewhat new ones often came out. I suppose it would be an ingredient of the creators to prevent boredom or monotony when playing a lot of the same, which forced constant updating.
I swear we wanted to buy them, despite the price that was not low (40 or 50 dls the originals, up to 4 CUC copies) … why not? We saw our son so happy! Our role as parents was beginning to be challenged by an unprecedented phenomenon, while it was our duty to accompany him and guide him on the new adventure.
YuGiOh’s letters came out of what we knew as traditional letters, but at least they continued to unfold in a space of human contact, interaction and healthy socialization between children and young people. So we decided to buy them, after agreeing that it would be with three conditions: they would be cheap, nothing to take them to school, and if we saw any problems associated with them, they would be withdrawn. And he agreed.
Not only did we buy them for them, but we also created an infrastructure to encourage and provide our children (already the child had also enlisted) the minimum conditions of enjoyment and learning during the game: space, schedule, snacks for the group of duelists, printing sessions and selection of decks. At the same time, being this closely gave us the possibility to monitor the process and the authority to keep adequate vigilance as parents about the effect of this phenomenon, which more than a game became a philosophy of life.
As adults responsible for protecting you, we began to assess risks: what if those letters contained something that would harm you psychologically, what if at school or during the time that we were not present someone with a profit interest proposed business or changes, or scamming it, considering that it was already a product that was borrowed for marketing? What if…?
When Starcraft, Call of Duty, the FIFA game and more today DOTA (Defense of the Ancients) appeared, the challenge increased as the digital game mode changed transcendently and abruptly the personal relationship with them. And here the challenge has been complicated. We could expect the crises’ strife in ages, dogs, child cravings and adolescents as a natural tendency to strengthen their autonomy. Traditional lies to evade the rules of discipline established by the family, complaints from teachers or neighbors about some transgress, intergenerational oppositions, etc. were expected.
But this that a machine, a device, computer, nintendo, play station, or cell phone caused our children to be twenty-four hours attached to a practice (in our view, not yours) monotonous; absorbed in a world whose language, phrases and operational schemes of sui generis thought and action were totally strange and incompatible with ours, but at the same time had in their codes values that neither the school was already reinforcing, such as those of teamwork, collaboration, solidarity, honesty, respect for the other and striving to always reach beyond what they thought were capable of , made us doubt whether to ban it, or accept it with certain restrictions, or negotiate it…
Between pros and cons, family life passed by trying to adapt to so much unknown. While it meant peace of mind and security for us to have our children, cousins and friends socializing and sharing at home, it was difficult for us to communicate with them, the schedules of routine activities such as those of the bathroom, food, sleep, sharing with the family walks and evenings, their physical activity, all of which left us at a disadvantage in terms of time of influence to model their training, quite reduced already by the almost fifty hours per week of stay in school.
Many and varied approaches are the research that has already been carried out, with strong information about the impact of technology on our environment, not so that they reveal tools to amortize it. According to the presentation “Harassment at a click: approach to gender-based violence in digital environments”, presented by Dr. Dixie E. Trinquete Díaz, journalist and assistant professor at the Faculty of Communication (FCOM) of the University of Havana, at the 2019 CIPS International Symposium, the UK-based creative agency We Are Social, which specializes in social media, announces that by the end of 2018 more than half of Cubans connected to the Internet: 6,470,000, for 56% of the country’s population, and about 75% of Internet users under the age of twenty-five had a profile on some social network.
Cuba’s rise in these statistical counts has been dizzying, and the author points out in the study itself that we are the sixteenth country with the greatest advance in percentage connectivity growth. However, in conjunction with this, the complexity that challenges us is the structural modification of society that results from accessing new ways of producing and expanding knowledge, as well as how the use and consumption of information dictates how new types of interpersonal relationships are established, basically within the family, especially when information technology has brought other ways of organizing us such as social media and virtual communities.
At the symposium itself, psychologist MSc. Nilza González Peña, a specialist in the Cartoon Department of ICAIC presented the study carried out in primary schoolchildren “Mediation of adults in the consumption of video games”, whose most relevant conclusion is to identify and place adults as mediators par excellence in the relationship established by children with different technological modalities, more specifically digitized games. It is the total and non-transferable responsibility of parents, guardians and teachers, to properly select both the exposure time of children and adolescents to this technological modality, as well as the quality and content of it. However, the risks perceived by families are still invisible, although the advantages of this option are valued more, as is the fact that infants “are calm and do not give war.”
Since digital contexts reproduce patterns of behavior based on unequal power relationships, its operating platform, based in turn on immediacy and anonymity, exposes every consumer to the risk of becoming a victim of bulling and/or harassment, but more closely to children and adolescents, more permanent consumers of the Internet and mobile telephony. This reality strengthens the need and urgency of our accompaniment, self-responsibility to inform us and update us, while helping them to see the opportunities it offers us.
Learning through experience, understood as the participation involved and conscious in any vital circumstance, where the decisions we make build more or less effective the expected or desired result, is not replaced by any other type of learning.
The anecdote with which I started this writing is a personal experience. It describes in a very way the process by which I went from being a mere expectant of the relationship of my children, their cousins and friends, with that current human revolution originated from the technological revolution, to being an active and facilitating companion of a wonderful learning experience, with success and misapcourse, fears and certainties, gains and losses, as is naturally to be of real benefit and growth.
It could be the story of any Cuban mother, professional or not, committed to the mission of cultivating authentic values to nurture in her children and at the same time offer to the society where they live. It is not at all intended to draw guidelines on how parents should behave on the subject. Much less is intended to stand as an authorized criterion in such a complex subject, but only to shed light on what I would sum up in: “how to continue educating for the better, not ‘despite’ but ‘in addition to’ technological invasion in our present life.”
To prepare to understand that it is wiser and more strategic to take advantage of it in favour, as a tool for formation – which, of course, presupposes a change of paradigamation in thought, attitude and action – and not as an obstacle against which to compete, I believe that, in essence, it can be the message proposed through this journey.
When my dear, well-weighted friend Yarelis Rico summoned me to turn some ideas on this role, or rather, on this keyboard, it occurred to me to ask my children what had helped them learn to play YuGiOh, and their answers were as follows:
“That was the first time I actually interacted with people, apart from my brother, at school, at home, in more places. I didn’t have to be specifically someone I played with all day, who of course, was my brother… I learned to understand more how other people’s understandings worked, how good at making strategies for anything, they could be, the same, a strategy to be at home, to play, than to converse with others; how they organized what they were going to say, how what they were going to do, or what they had already done, an organization by which I could lose or win, which I also had to take into account, the way I organized things… it also helped me in the calculation: the sum, the subtraction, the math of the good, not the one that demanded me in school… of me he taught me how far I can go when he sees me in trouble, activating some strategy of magic or cheating” (D.A., 15).
“It helped me to be calm, to wait for the play, to plan things well, not to rush to play, to wait well when things happen, when I wanted to play fast because I wanted to win, I realized that no, that we had to wait for the move… helped me learn a lot of English, because when I had to explain to others the effect I had to translate…” (D.E., 20 years).
For me, they are testimonies of an educational intention translated into effect and suffice me as evidence to thank the creators of the game for having carved a portion of my crop, and Yarelis for encouraging me to recover it. Between gratitude and pride, if for good it was, for for it to remain for the better. Ω