"Virtual Autism", explained by the term's author, Marius Zamfir: "It doesn't just come from screens. Here, a very big mistake is made!"

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"Virtual Autism", explained by the term's author, Marius Zamfir: "It doesn't just come from screens. Here, a very big mistake is made!" / PHOTO: freepik.com @Guzov Ruslan
"Virtual Autism", explained by the term's author, Marius Zamfir: "It doesn't just come from screens. Here, a very big mistake is made!" / PHOTO: freepik.com @Guzov Ruslan

The President of the Child Mental Health Association, clinical psychologist Marius Zamfir, a specialist in the human microbiome, spoke on the show "Present Parents", hosted by the editor-in-chief of ParintisiPitici.ro, Loredana Iriciuc, about virtual autism.

The term "virtual autism" was first coined by clinical psychologist Marius Zamfir. In 2018, he also published a study titled "Consumption of virtual media for more than 4 hours per day in children aged 0-3 years may cause a syndrome similar to autism spectrum disorder."

"My study was based on clinical cases because we can never speak of virtual autism in the present. We can only talk about it in the past. Here, a very big mistake is made! Many people use the term without realizing how they use it.

Parents come to me and say, 'My child has virtual autism.' I say, 'We don't know, at this moment the child is exhibiting behaviors that, according to diagnostic manuals, are called autism. There is no diagnosis of virtual autism. We need to start rehabilitation, to put those workers to work in that respective factory, and if we see that the factory produces what it should, we realize that, in fact, it was strictly a problem of the workers. If the workers instead of working, are on a tablet, how can that child learn skills?" Marius Zamfir said on "Present Parents," a show by ParintisiPitici.ro.

How many hours a day in front of screens can virtual autism develop?

PHOTO: freepik.com @EyeEm

Clinical psychologist Marius Zamfir was asked how many hours a child can develop behaviors of virtual autism, and the expert suggests that dependency generally sets in at a daily consumption of over 4-5 hours per day. He expressed concern that this dependency could affect children's development but noted that there are no extensive studies directly analyzing this phenomenon. Zamfir mentioned the difficulty of conducting such a study due to ethical considerations and research practices.

"In general, dependency is created at a consumption of over 4-5 hours per day on average. I believe that a child's impairment can also occur from this. But we cannot conduct such studies. Many people have said that this cannot be a study because it needs to be done as in a real study. I would have to take a child, put them in front of a screen, and see what happens. You realize that we can never do that.

So, we can only rely on what has already happened, on the data that has already occurred.

Unfortunately, we have had parents who said that they brought their babies from the maternity ward, took a tablet stand, and until the child was 2 years old, they spent all their time with their eyes on a screen, even during meals and bath time.

If we analyze and do a psychological autopsy of this type of behavior, we realize that the dopamine factory of this child could not produce pleasure hormones, or social interaction, because he did not have social interaction. And, at some point, those areas begin to atrophy.

I have also associated in my study the syndrome of Mowgli children, those children raised by animals, who, even if found, could not be helped because the brain has some windows of opportunity until 5-6 years old. And after that, some things can still be done, but very few.

If the brain has atrophied in these areas responsible for developing neural networks, for what social relationships mean, it is very difficult to develop them afterward", explained the President of the Child Mental Health Association.

Marius Zamfir: "It doesn't just come from screens"

PHOTO: freepik.com @EyeEm

Marius Zamfir brought up the importance of attachment and its influence on an individual's subsequent development.

"In attachment theory, we learn that a child will have, as an adult, attachment based on what attachment they received by the age of 2-3. They will relate all their relationships to that type of attachment. They may be able to modify something there, but very little. Based on that attachment, neural networks are created.

I tell parents, you want your child to learn to swim, but you've never put them in water. They can't learn to swim!

There are many factors here that, in fact, most of the time, in this virtual neglect, it doesn't just come from screens. From my point of view, I could leave a child for 5 hours a day with screens, I could bet that something like this could happen, but if I take care of them properly afterward, they won't have any problem. But most of the time, then a hyperprotective parental system intervenes, where the child is not allowed to do anything, not allowed to get hurt, not allowed to get dirty, mom feeds them, mom holds them tight. And the child, this way, doesn't develop.

The child's small development is called sensorimotor development, motor skills develop half of the neural networks.

A child who stays on screens doesn't move at all, and then when they're not on screens, mom does all those things for them, and they don't get to move. Half of the networks develop through motor skills, the other half through sensory mechanisms. But they don't get to experience, to put things in their mouth, to hit, to fall, to touch, to taste, to smell, because most of the time someone else does these things for them. This way, they end up with delays in everything related to the neurosynaptic system", the clinical psychologist further explained.

Differences between virtual autism and classical autism

PHOTO: freepik.com @EyeEm

Clinical psychologist Marius Zamfir was asked about the differences between the symptoms of virtual autism and those of classical autism. In his response, the expert emphasized that in the initial phase, the symptomatology is nearly identical, making it difficult to distinguish between the two. However, he noted a difference in stereotyped and repetitive behaviors, which may not be as prominent in virtual autism.

"The symptomatology is nearly identical in the initial phase, making it very hard to discern. The only difference that I have observed is that perhaps these stereotyped and repetitive behaviors are not as prominent.

Most of the time, pure virtual autism does not exist. It's a combination: a bit from being born via cesarean section, a bit from antibiotic administration that disrupted the gut flora, then exposure to screens, coupled with hyper-protective parenting, and all of these factors actually accumulate like a snowball rolling downhill, growing larger and larger", Marius Zamfir pointed out.

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Autorul articolului: Loredana Iriciuc | Categorie: English

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