For now, and surely for a long time to come, social interaction will be irreplaceable. If robotics and artificial intelligence make us think it might be possible, the human brain is so complex that we are still far from it.
The process by which neural connections are established, stimulated by social interaction, is the basis of brain development. Most importantly, no two interactions are identical, so it is the uniqueness of each relationship that establishes the basis of each person’s identity.
Social interaction, in its face-to-face dimension, is a multi-sensory experience, including touch, sight, sound and smell. John Bowlby pioneered the “attachment theory” stating that the early months and years are developmentally determinant, depending on the degree and quality of the infant’s attachment to his or her caregiver. It is not enough that physiological needs are adequately met, affective bonds and social stimulation are indispensable.
The process of attachment and social interaction should occur naturally in the family; however, the heavy demands that society imposes on its adult members today lead to neglect and/or the search for substitutes for entertainment, but not for stimulation, with serious consequences for the affective and cognitive development of children and young people.
Faced with this reality, nursery education or pre-school, crèche and kindergarten play a decisive role in the development of these children. Unfortunately, in Chile, according to the Report on the Characterisation of Kindergarten Education in 2020, coverage is close to only 50% (800,000 children) of those who are of age to attend, leaving the same number outside the system.
Compulsory basic education, instead of strengthening social interaction through ludic-participative methodologies, or those where the student is an active agent through manipulating, exploring, observing, experimenting, building and expressing together with their peers, immobilises them sitting in a seat in front of a table, to receive a lesson from their teacher in a way that is not very entertaining and not at all stimulating.
Subsequently, children and young people of an age to access mobile phones, games consoles and/or computers are isolated from their environment, depriving themselves of the stimulation and brain development of healthy eating and healthy eating habits and physical activity, since the design of their content is designed to generate addiction in its users. It is not about banning them but about developing balanced behaviours.
The brain continues to develop throughout life and social interactions are always equally important, even in old age. People need positive social interactions to develop and maintain social and emotional skills, such as empathy and conflict resolution, as well as for cognitive development.