smartphones, tablets, TVs – are now everywhere. But their excess has effects on children’s health and emotional well-being.
Not so long ago, children had fun in the wild with other children. They were one with their environment. Things have changed a lot now. More and more young children are living day after day with various electronic devices and games, cutting them off from a sensory environment that is connected to the world around them. However, excessive consumption of technology can have negative consequences on their development.
An impact on psychological development
It is estimated that if the brain triples in size between 0 and 2 years of age, it continues to develop rapidly up to 21 years of age. Overexposure of the child’s brain to technologies such as video games, mobile phones, computers and television can lead to chaotic brain development. Disorderedly, the child will experience attention deficits, learning disabilities, cognitive delays, decreased ability to regulate mood and outbursts of anger.
As for its motor and sensory development, it will also be very affected, as sedentarization has replaced movement. This can be an important factor in delaying literacy and academic achievement. Being in motion often when you are young is excellent for improving learning ability and attention. However, more and more young people under the age of 12 are inactive, facing a screen where aggressiveness, physical and even sexual violence sometimes mix.
In addition, psychologically, an excess of technology can have a significant impact by hindering any form of imagination and creativity. In the worst situations it is possible that this can create serious behavioural and psychological problems. Locked in a digital bubble, they no longer really realize everything around them, sometimes leading to risky behaviour and possible aggression. What is commonly not normal becomes, through these digital objects, everyday and objectified. Sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, depression, isolation, speech difficulties and sometimes even suicide attempts can occur in some children facing this massive overexposure.
An impact on physical and metabolic development
More and more young children are obese. This is an observation that does not only concern North American countries. And it has been proven that the increase in obesity is fully correlated with the use of television and video games. For children with electronic devices in their rooms, the risk of obesity increases by 30%. Of course, this can have serious consequences, such as diabetes, an increased risk of stroke, early heart attacks, which will shorten their life expectancy. This can even lead to cancer risks, due to the emission of radiation. This is an observation made by the World Health Organization, which noted in 2011 that children are more sensitive to radiation produced by electronic devices than adults. Thus, exposure to radio frequencies is classified as a possible and possibly soon probable carcinogenic risk.
There are many reasons not to expose developing children to technology. By making their imagination work to the maximum, by making them do playful activities where they are in movement, they will develop much better.
It is said that the earlier the child gets used to new technologies, the sooner he becomes intelligent. That nenni. A specialist explains it to us.
Who has never given a child a smartphone or mobile tablet, or put it in front of the TV or computer, just to calm him down? When walking, at home, in the supermarket, in the car, etc., the older ones very often use this solution to keep their offspring, even those at an early age, quiet. It is said that the earlier the child gets used to new technologies, the sooner he becomes intelligent. However, it is quite the opposite. Indeed, these behaviours only create an addiction in children to the screen and new technologies.
“We receive many babies every day from 3 to 4 months old, who are tied on a stroller in front of TV shows all day long, and these children, at 2 or 3 years old, have language problems, personality structuring problems, severe depression, etc.,” says child psychiatrist Ghislaine Benjelloune. Early exposure to the Internet, television or video games can certainly be positive, but its harmful effects are many, as children have access to a number of things for which they are not mature.
Children’s specialists are unanimous: no child who does not yet speak, who is not socialized, should be put in front of a screen; this is totally forbidden before the age of three. And the same applies to children who have access to video games between the ages of three and six. Parents have the impression that TV and video games educate the child and allow him/her to develop intelligence, but the side effects are so huge. Dr. Benjelloune denounces this tendency of some parents to leave the education of their offspring to technological devices, which is “extremely harmful to the parent-child relationship and to the child’s intellectual and emotional development”.
These children find themselves alone with a screen, without control over what they are watching. Many cases of children have been exposed to pornographic images or sex while they were playing, or to things they are not prepared to absorb at all. And the consequences are many: states of stress, anxiety, vision of perverse sexuality, desire to experiment, etc. In the video below, Dr. Benjelloune explains the many pathologies faced by children exposed too early to new technologies and the role that parents can play.
Overloaded with information, we can’t even concentrate anymore
When asked by messages and notifications from our digital devices from all sides, we feel that it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to stay focused on a task. Does this mean that the screens are altering our attention? “In reality, there are two types of attention, one voluntary, that we can direct at a target, the other automatic, more archaic but vital: it is it that alerts us to the arrival of a car when we are about to cross,” explains Jean-Philippe Lachaux, research director at Inserm working at the Centre de recherche en neurosciences de Lyon and author of the Cerveau funambule . However, the vibrations of our smartphone or the appearance of notifications on our screens constantly demand our automatic attention. “Programmed to warn us of dangers and help us make quick decisions, our automatic attention is overwhelmed by these stimuli. This creates a feeling of overload and makes it more difficult to mobilize our voluntary attention,
We amplify this information overload when we perform several tasks in parallel on different screens: watching a video on YouTube while answering a friend by SMS, for example. “Doing several things at the same time, what is called multitasking, is an illusion,” says Elena Pasquinelli, an associate researcher at the Jean-Nicod Institute in Paris and a member of the La main à la pâte foundation. Our brain cannot perform two actions at the same time that use the same neural networks, such as reading and listening, (except when one of the two tasks is automated, shift gears while driving, for example). “We feel like we’re doing these tasks simultaneously when in reality we’re juggling each other,” she says. Studies have shown that this gymnastics has a cost: we are slower to perform these two actions, because the brain loses time to move from one to the other. We are also more likely to make mistakes.
This tsunami of information also forces the brain to adopt what American neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf calls a skimming method. We adopt a quick reading style that is more of an overview. Several studies have shown that the Web promotes fragmented reading. And this also applies to the digital book: psychologist Anne Mangen, in Norway, found that secondary school students had a poorer understanding of a story read on this medium than through a paper reading.
In an article published on August 25 in The Guardian, Maryanne Wolf believes that we would be less and less able to implement a deep reading, allowing us to understand the complexity of demanding texts. This is not without consequences: it would, in her opinion, lead us to lose our sense of critical analysis. Drunk with information, our brains would be more easily attracted to the simplest sources, at the risk of being trapped by fake news, false beliefs and other conspiracy theories.
We work less on our memory than before
This fast playback mode also does not facilitate memorization. “If we do not give our exclusive attention to an item of information, it fits less into the so-called “semantic” memory, which is a kind of mental synthesis of all the information that reaches us,” explains Francis Eustache, a researcher at the École pratique des hautes études and Inserm, and president of the scientific council of the Observatoire B2V des mémoires.
But that’s not all. To be retained for a long time and to pass into long-term memory, the information must also be consolidated. To do this, sleep plays an essential role, reactivating the neural circuits that are activated during the day. However, the use of screens in the evening (practiced by neuroscientists out of ten) has a negative effect, because the blue light they emit desynchronizes our internal clock and inhibits the secretion of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
More surprisingly: to promote memorization, we also need moments during the day to immerse ourselves in our thoughts. “We then use a particular brain network called “default mode”. In interaction with other areas of the brain, it allows us to synthesize our knowledge and plays a role in decision-making, anticipation and creativity,” explains Francis Eustache. A study conducted by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2017, showed that those who regularly dream regularly obtain better results on intelligence and creativity tests. “Memory is not only used to remember, but also to think,” says Elena