89 percent of young people in one region of Spain own their first mobile phone before they reach the age of 13 and a recent study has analyzed the use of information and communication technologies by using a sample of 5,538 students from the Vallès Occidental region of Catalonia.

The study, based on surveys taken in the 2010/2011 academic year, finds links between school failure and an elevated use of computers at home. It also correlates an intensive use of video devices with the consumption of toxic substances. 

The researchers writing in Atención Primaria say the 5,538 secondary school students were from public and private centres located in the towns of Sabadell, Castellar del Vallès, Sant Quirze del Vallès, Sentmenat, Polinyà, Palau-Solità i Plegamans and Santa Perpètua de Mogoda. The survey gathered information on after-school activities, school performance, consumption of toxic substances, family relations, use of devices and parental control. 

It also included a validated questionnaire on their experiences with Internet, mobile phones and video games.

The results were that video devices are easily accessible for young students and their exposure to these technologies begin at an increasingly early age. At the moment of the survey, 98 percent of the students had Internet at home and 89 percent already owned a mobile phone before turning 13. The use of video games reached 54.2 percent and decreased with age. 

Access to Internet of those participating in the study focused mainly on social networks (87%), chats (52%), e-mails (68.3%) and school work (50%). With regard to video games, the use decreases with age, at the same time as parents also decrease the control on how many hours and what type of games their children play.

Researchers have observed a linear increase in school failure in relation to an increase in the hours spent on the computer and less control by parents. School failure reaches 16 percent among students who use the computer less than one hour a day; 17 percent for those who use it one to two hours; 20 percent, two to three hours, and 29 percent if they use the computer for more than three hours a day. Nevertheless, the study shows that not using a computer at all also increases school failure up to 27 percent. 

The lack of parental control and an intense use of the computer and video games are also associated with a higher index of young people who have suffered from alcohol intoxication or consume cannabis or other toxic substances. For example, among first year students, 11 percent of those who use the computer more than three hours daily had already suffered from alcohol intoxication and 10 percent had already consumed cannabis, while these percentages lower to 4 and 2 percent in the case of those who use a computer less than three hours per day.

Citation: Raquel Muñoz-Miralles et al., "Acceso y uso de nuevas tecnologías entre los jóvenes de educación secundaria, implicaciones en salud." Estudio JOITIC. Atención Primaria
Volume 46, Issue 2, 2014, Pages 77–88