‘I cannot see the difference between real and virtual’, teenagers speak out about the challenges they face in today’s digital world

February 19, 2024 | Blog, Education, Wellbeing

Barcelona-based communication platform 4Voices is set to host what is expected to be a powerful and impactful event aimed at shedding light on the unique insights of teenagers navigating the complexities of the digital era.

‘I cannot see the difference between real and virtual’, teenagers speak out about the challenges they face in today’s digital world

‘The Digital Jungle: navigating the online world’ is the theme of this year’s 4Voices Public Speaking event which will be held on 27 April at Barcelona’s prestigious CosmoCaixa auditorium. 

The theme was chosen in a bid to encourage youngsters to directly voice their experiences and express the challenges they face in the online world, often overlooked in discussions about the digital landscape.

“The calibre of this year’s applicants for The Digital Jungle’s Public Speaking event has surpassed all our expectations,” comments 4Voices co-founder Gabriella Opaz. “If we have learnt anything from the scores of submissions, it is clear that innovations like social media and artificial intelligence have brought many societal benefits, including increased connectivity, greater access to information and new forms of expression. However, the next generation are also telling us that many of these advancements have dire consequences that are pushing them to the brink of their wellbeing.”


4Voices finalists 2023


The seven girls and five boys from 4ESO and 1BXT were chosen from over one hundred video applications sent in from schools across Spain. Among the themes of the 12 finalists are Instagram zombification, online pornography, the fear of AI and ‘trauma dumping’.

Pedro Hermanovich, a finalist and a student at Hamelin International School has chosen to voice his concerns about social media ‘zombification’ and admits that sometimes he cannot discern between the real and the virtual world.

“We’re moving away from what’s natural,” he says. “Our society is getting faster every day compared to the society 50 years ago. Days seem to be becoming shorter, but it’s because our society is forcing us to do too much, too fast. We are sacrificing our welfare to get results. And to get relief from this pressure, we fill our free time with all sorts of stimulus to give us dopamine like short-form content, which makes the existing problems worse and creates a new problem – zombification. And if you keep feeding time to this type of content, you get lost. You miss life. You get to believe your life is the digital world.”

With the surge in online activities, teenagers have found themselves at the forefront of the digital revolution. However, their experiences, both positive and negative, often go unheard. 4Voices believes it is crucial to provide a platform for teenagers to express their thoughts, concerns, and ideas regarding the complexities of the online world. The dangers of overuse of social media are recurrent throughout.


4Voices Founders (from left to right) Catriona Groves, Carrie Frais. Jane Mitchell. Gabriella Opaz & Cormac Walsh.


“Social media and technology can have a dramatic effect on children when considering neurodevelopment,” explains psychologist Dr Jill Jenkins. “Starting at age 10, receptors in the brain become more sensitive to rewards, including those that increase dopamine and serotonin, both of which are heightened by interaction with social media, video games and technology at large. In the face of an underdeveloped frontal lobe which helps to regulate inpulse control and executive functioning, interactions can become similar to addictive behaviour patterns. At a developmental age when the need for ‘individuation’ peaks, these addictive external reinforcers could have a lasting effect the way that one evaluates their self worth, meaning and purpose in life, which are fundamental core characteristics for wellbeing and future emotional flourishing.”

Sponsors this year once again include global digital wellness company Qoria who also support empowering youth to articulate their experiences and concerns in the online world.

“They are not just users, but active participants in the digital landscape,” explains Qoria’s Josh Gabel. “Their insights and perspectives are invaluable in forging a digital future that is not only safer but also promotes the wellbeing of all children.”

Find out more about the upcoming 4Voices events and coaching on their website.

If your organisation would like to sponsor upcoming 4Voices events, please get in touch by email on info@4-voices.com.

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