Michel Desmurget is head of the CNRS research team on brain plasticity. He has just published La Fabrique du crétin digital. The dangers of screens for our children (Threshold, 425 pages, 20 euros).
Based on the available scientific literature, the neuroscientist details the effects of the omnipresence of digital tools on the cognition, behavior and well-being of children.
In your book, you discuss different types of screens, video games, and more. What is the most deleterious for the child?
It's the convergence of all this. Many studies highlight the impact of screens, whatever they are, on delays in language development, sleep and attention. The brain - especially when it is under construction - is not made to undergo this sensory bombardment.
What data is available on the screen time?
The screen time is not only excessive, it is extravagant. In the United States, it is almost three hours a day at age three, four hours forty between 8 and 12 years, and six hours forty between 13 and 18 years old. In France, children aged 6 to 17 spent, on average, in 2015, four hours and eleven minutes per day in front of a screen, according to the Esteban study conducted by Public Health France. Other data differ slightly, but they are all in equivalent ranges, and in all cases in very high proportions. Only 6% to 10% of children are not affected.
Is it so bad?
Before 6 years, it is shown that the screens have an effect as early as fifteen minutes a day. In the first five to six years of life, every minute counts: it is a period of absolutely unique development, learning, brain plasticity that will not happen again!
Beyond 6 years, up to half an hour, even an hour of consumption per day, there are no measurable effects provided that the contents consulted are adapted and that this activity does not affect sleep . But we are far beyond. What is happening right now is a novel experience of large-scale decerebration.
For adolescents, is the average level of consumption problematic?
We can really talk about an epidemic among adolescents; it is a major public health problem. The literature as a whole indicates in particular the deleterious effects of screens on concentration. Whatever the content, the support, the brain is not designed for such exogenous solicitations. A large number of studies show increased risks of depression, anxiety, suicide, related to screen time.