For more than ten years, many studies have reported on the dangers of screens for young people, as shown for example in the documentary Behind our smoke screens by Jeff Orlowski or the well documented book The factory of the digital jerk by cognitive neuroscience researcher Michel Desmurget – a work with a single-spaced bibliography of 75 pages!
The dangers of screens for young people aged two to eighteen are known: dangers for cognitive faculties (attention, memorization, language, etc.), mental health and behavior (aggressiveness, depression, self-harm, risky behavior. ..), physical health (obesity, cardiovascular diseases, reduction in restful sleep, etc.), socialization (withdrawal into oneself, asocial behavior, etc.).
Too much time in front of the screen, regardless of age
We know that children under six should not be exposed at all to different types of screens (television, multifunction phone, tablet, video console, computer). However, according to Desmurget, those in Western countries accumulate, from the age of two, almost three hours per day of exposure. Are all parents sufficiently informed of these dangers to intervene effectively with their offspring?
As for children aged eight to twelve, they should not be exposed to screens for more than an hour a day. However, they spend more hours in front of screens than at school. Still according to Desmurget (who describes a situation prior to the current pandemic), adolescents aged 12 to 18 are in front of screens on average 6 hours and 40 minutes per day (per year, this represents the time of two school years and half).
The pandemic accentuates the problem
In Quebec, in these times of pandemic, pupils and students are much more exposed to screens than before. Online courses every other day for 4th and 5th year secondary students: was there no other solution than to expose these young people even more to screens?
As for CEGEPs, university students and their respective faculty, they are all grappling with online courses in an attempt to pursue training activities. Then again, are there no alternatives to screens?
If school administrators and teachers are not vigilant, distance learning will be essential even after the pandemic. Because, among other things, they are much less expensive. However, education is still seen as an expense rather than as an emancipatory necessity and the basis of living together.
But also and above all, with online education, few fraternal exchanges, debates, opportunities to come together to discuss, challenge and find innovative solutions to continue training differently.
- Listen to Suzanne-G. Chartrand, spokesperson for the collective Get up for school! to QUB radio
The immense responsibility of public authorities
We know the dangers of exposure to screens and the meteoric rise in cyber addiction, but the public authorities act as if they ignore it; worse still, they fund the distribution of screens, even in economically poor circles, supposedly to reduce the digital divide.
They do not hinder the transformation of learning conditions in the classroom where interaction with peers and teachers is essential.
On the contrary, they promote schooling increasingly dependent on information and communication technologies (ICT), without in-depth reflection or social consensus on the issue.
Need it be pointed out that this is not a matter of ignoring the positive contributions of computer technologies, when we know how to make good use of them, but of denouncing the total lack of prevention by the public authorities regarding the risks they pose. can pose.
The greed of ICT touts seems as insatiable as that of oil lobbyists while being as harmful, if not more so. Given the lightning speed with which these transnationals are transforming society in general and education in particular, why allow them such a hold over what is of the common good?
Act before it’s too late
What are we waiting for to mobilize against this announced catastrophe of cyber addiction, undoubtedly worse, in the long term, than that of Covid-19?
What are child development specialists and their corporations waiting for to speak out loud and clear about this situation and get the public authorities to carry out a broad awareness campaign for the population, in particular parents and grandparents?
What are the faculties of education doing to develop alternative practices and disseminate those that exist?
What should have been a tool, one means of adaptation among others during this period, is plunging schools into a deleterious drift, bringing with them many families, young and old. The Covid-19 pandemic favors the imposition of technological tools in education. Without a solid and massive questioning of this invasion in education now, it will be too late to stop the tidal wave.
Suzanne-G. Chartrand, retired from teaching
and coordinator of the Debout pour l’école! collective