Screens are a disaster at home and at school

Celia Izoard is an author and journalist. She just published a collection on digital factories (The Machine is your lord and your master, Xu Lizhi, Yang, Jenny Chan, ed. ago, 2022). She translated and preface 1984, by George Orwell (Agone, 2021). She is also a columnist for News reporter.


Why are so many teachers resigning today? ? Certainly, wages have never been so low and classes so overcrowded that many are exhausted or disgusted by the administration of sanitation measures in schools. But there is another problem. Teachers bear the brunt of the damage the digital industry is doing to children.

On average, students going to school today spend three times as much time on screens as they did ten years ago. According to an Ipsos survey [1], children ages one to six spend at least six hours a week watching videos on the Internet, four hours playing video games, and six hours watching television. In schools Anne-Lise Ducanda, doctor of mother and child protection, notices the effects of this exponential consumption. More and more teachers lament the increase in the number of children unable to concentrate in the classroom »she says in Toddlers in front of screens (ed. Du Rocher, 2021). Children who cannot sit in a chair or concentrate on an activity for more than two minutes ; children who do not pay attention to their peers who ask them or to the adult who addresses them. In the most extreme cases, some are in the grip of a permanent agitation: they compulsively grab all the objects at hand, knock over boxes of materials, throw away toys, tear up books. »

In fact, young children’s cognitive and social skills are collapsing. More and more students come to school unable to speak, understand, manipulate objects, relate to others. They repeat colors, numbers or sequences of words in English straight from these educational apps designed to make children precocious and bilingual. At preschool age, the D . reportsr Ducanda, some get up in the middle of the night to grab their parents’ smartphone and secretly watch videos.

In the most extreme cases, some are plagued by permanent agitation »

School is a nightmare for these students. Their parents must file a file with the Departmental Home for People with Disabilities to get a school assistant who will care for the child in the classroom. Anne-Lise Ducanda took stock: In 2002, if I saw one child per school show such symptoms, in 2017 there were one or two per class. In other words, in 15 years, there were seven times as many children in my city’s 12 schools with moderate-to-severe relationship and behavioral problems. » she thought that 90 to 98 % of children with these symptoms were overexposed to screens, ie more than four hours a day, including the television in the background. »

In 2021, the first results of the Elfe study (French longitudinal study since childhood), conducted by Inserm and Public Health France, confirmed the association between screen time at two years of age and sleep disorders, behavioral disorders (inattention, hyperactivity) and delays in learning at the age of two. three and a half years. Researchers at the University of Alberta have found that five-year-olds who spend more than two hours a day in front of a screen are five to nine times more likely to have symptoms related to brain deficit disorder.

For the youngest, the content of what is viewed is less important than the time: the time spent not babbling, touching, crawling, bored, observing, imitating, falling ; to be deprived of the looks and gestures of others. The computer revolution would knowledge society ». Twenty years later, it has confiscated from millions of children their most basic abilities: speaking, listening, reasoning, communicating, creating.

Unlike other disasters, this one is reversible. So these syndromes that some professionals from childhood Early and overexposure to screens » can be cured or softened in a few months: just cut all screens and restore focus and direct link, the D notedr Ducanda through her clinical work. This requires it not to be confused with autism, with which it shares some symptoms. This also means that the parents must tolerate subjecting the child to painful withdrawal symptoms. Addiction to fencing, which seven years ago 10 . represented % of D consultationsr Benjamin Pitrat, addiction specialist in child psychiatry at Robert Debré Hospital, represents 90 % in 2020, indicated The worldwho interviewed him. When the parents stop the screen, it leads the child to crises that can be impressive: insults, doors being smashed in stairs, threats of suicide… »he said.

By causing such a deterioration in children’s mental health, the digital industry is destroying schools as surely as budget cuts. It makes it unsuitable for the children it has molded by its prodigious systems for attracting attention. Teachers’ work was already difficult ; it becomes almost impossible: how could students who were used to surfing, scrolling and getting dopamine shocks physically endure an hour of class? ? By the way, how many adults still manage to listen to a one-hour speech without grabbing a smartphone or absentmindedly clicking a page? ? Based on these issues, companies are using all of their weight to force their innovative solutions on schools: congratulatory educational apps, augmented reality courses and even connected bracelets to monitor the health of high school students made too sedentary by screens – wristbands are currently being tested by the Sarthe department. Before the start of the school year, the ministry has 69 educational digital solutions offered by 34 publishers and EdTech companies as part of a 25 million euro public contract ». It’s an amplification loop: The harm of digital technology is slowly disqualifying school professionals in favor of digital education. It also bolsters the industry’s main argument for denying the disaster they’ve caused: you see, digital can have educational virtues, it depends on how you use it.

Digital companies have succeeded in imposing a new social norm

It all depends on how you use it », just be reasonable ». Behind these expressions, attacked by experts in the good use » digitally, the overwhelming responsibility of these companies is transferred to the parents, and more particularly to the parents of the working class. Because just as the bourgeoisie has turned away from junk food, it is now learning to protect its children from screens after using them as a social marker for twenty years. [2] The poorest families, inundated with advertisements and deprived of nature, deprived of the means to compete with YouTube and Fortnite through outings and leisure activities, are massively victims of the addictive misery of the high tech. Not only are their children the first to be affected, but the parents are identified as the main culprits. Regarding the problems of obesity and overweight (which now affects more than a third of young children in France) [3]the violence of mass drunkenness is being reused in class violence [4].

For this start of the school year, the ministry has opted for “ 69 educational digital solutions as part of a 25 million euro public contract “. flickr / CC BY MEANS OFCNN/A 2.0 / Howard County Library System

In reality, in twenty years digital companies have managed to impose a new social norm: that of living with an average of six screens at home, of using a smartphone 200 times a day, of watching video tunnels. Like industrial food, this norm is pathological. The only way to provide children with a decent environment is to resolutely distance themselves from it and transform the collective. It seems highly unlikely that the state will do this: After approving the rollout of 5G, it has just allocated 1 billion to a major digital plan for schools and 11 billion to digital technologies of the 100 billion in the plan. recovery. Parents can come together to make decisions that would be too difficult if they were isolated. There is a group (Facebook) Parents united against the smartphone before 15 years » which aims to ensure that more students do not have them. Parents from the same neighborhood or school could coordinate for the same purpose. Meetings of parents and parent associations should be used to collaborate so that children who play outside of school do not have access to tablets, phones and consoles, or only at certain times depending on their age.

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