La Croix L’Hebdo: You consider that overexposure to screens in children and more particularly in toddlers (0-6 years) is “the new disease of the century”. How is this overexposure characterized?
Anne-Lise Ducanda: There has been a worrying turn over the past ten years. Children are now subjected directly to screens: using an adult’s smartphone, watching a cartoon on TV or having fun with sound and light toys from an early age. In addition, sometimes the television is switched on continuously at home and which, in the background, can distract them even when they are doing something quite different.
Adult behavior is also at stake: when a parent is captivated by their phone, they pay less attention to their child’s looks, which necessarily impacts family communication.
Many parents consider that these electronic tools promote the awakening and development of the youngest. What do you think ?
A. – LD: A screen is not a toy. And, in my opinion, no screen is as educational as a “classic” game. I have met many parents delighted that their offspring can count to 100, in three different languages… But the child repeats like a parrot, without understanding what he is saying.
There is even talk of an addiction for toddlers … What are the problems caused?
A. – LD: In my practice, I diagnose many children with attention deficit disorder. As soon as he sees a screen or a light, the child is stimulated… On the contrary, he lacks concentration at school.
→ INVESTIGATION. Effects of screens on our children: what do we really know?
I also notice intellectual and motor delays. Many children cannot hold a pen in their hands. They are also intolerant of frustration and howl when not in front of a screen. However, I do not blame the parents, largely overwhelmed by this scourge …
You are sounding the alarm bells to fight against this “health scandal” which you consider to be as serious as cigarettes or pesticides. What do you expect from the public authorities?
A. – LD: That they launch a major national prevention plan, to fight against overexposure to screens, a plan at the height of the campaign against Covid-19. Nowadays, screens have invaded schools, from kindergarten to high school.
A mom told me that her 3 year old daughter came home with a tablet to learn a nursery rhyme. His 5-year-old, meanwhile, is learning to write his first name on the computer …
Unlike other health scandals, the effects of overexposure to screens in toddlers are preventable! It is necessary to train health professionals, who often confuse these disorders with those of autism. Finally, I ask for support for parents who must help their child fight against this addiction.
Chinese authorities will use facial recognition to limit young people under the age of 18 to three hours of video games per week. Should we arrive at coercive measures to combat this phenomenon?
A. – LD: I would not go that far, which is why I am calling on the French authorities to react in time. However, I am in favor of legislation against pornographic content, which can be found on all media. Today, a child who watches cartoons on an online video platform may, over the content, come across a pornographic video.
Until concrete measures are taken in France, what advice do you have for parents?
A. – LD: In order to protect the youngest, they must be kept away from screens as long as possible. I recommend that parents do not expose their child to tablets, laptops, televisions and other light and sound toys before the age of 2.
→ READ. How to manage the screen time of children?
Then for children aged 2 to 6 years, it is necessary to limit the exposure in front of the screens to thirty minutes on the days without school.
Regarding toddlers, I recommend this drastic solution: no screen for 2 years! Even if the child is angry, you have to hold on!
► The author
Anne-Lise Ducanda is a doctor specializing in overexposure to screens. Pediatrician in PMI (maternal and child protection) for fifteen years, she observed a strong exposure of toddlers. For three years, she has been warning about these dangers. She is also a member of the CoSE (Collective overexposure screens), which campaigns for this phenomenon to be recognized as a major public health issue. She just published Toddlers facing the screens(editions
du Rocher, 302 p., € 18.90).
► The stake
For several years and more with repeated confinements, overconsumption
of screens among those under 18 is singled out. But the overexposure of toddlers has been forgotten. However, it worries more and more pediatricians.