How to protect our children from screens?

In the digital age and digital innovations, the issue of children’s overexposure to screens is an important issue. Meeting with a specialist on the subject, Anne-Lise Ducanda, author of a rather alarming book on the issue


Television, tablets, smartphones: in recent years, children have had daily access to all kinds of digital devices. At 2, some already know how to use a phone to watch videos or access games. Simple sign of intelligence or great danger? Anne-Lise Ducanda, PhD in PMI (Maternal and Child Protection) in Paris, is more in favor of the second option. According to her, the overexposure of children to screens is a silent pandemic … Explanations.

In the preface to his book, Daniel Marcelli, professor emeritus of childhood and adolescent psychiatry, compares the exposure of children to screens to the dangers of smoking and asbestos. Is digital overexposure of children a public health concern?

Absolutely yes, and we can also speak of a pandemic given the number of children affected. The data of school psychologists in the sector speak for themselves: in France there are 22% of children in difficulty, 95% of whom are overexposed to screens, or about 1 million children under 6 years of age. There are 167,000 new cases of children under 6 a year. Globally, WHO states that infectious diseases are no longer the primary cause of children’s ill health, but developmental delays and behavioral disturbances. Intellectual, psychological and linguistic disabilities have increased by 300% in ten years in France. Faced with these figures, we can clearly state that there is an epidemic trend.

Not everyone likes your warning cry.

How to protect our children from screens?

When parents and children are captured by their screens, there is no – or very little – interaction between them, which causes communication disturbances in children. When the latter are brought to pass tests in diagnostic centers, because they do not attract attention, do not respond to their name, parents are told that they are autistic. While not! This diagnosis is behavioral and is not based on a blood test or CT scan. But the ailments caused by overexposure to screens are very similar to those of the autism spectrum.

Screens are everywhere at home, sometimes even at school. Can we find a balance in their daily use?

This varies according to age and disorder, but for 0-2 year olds I recommend not presenting them with any screens.  At this point in their life, their brains are making billions of brain connections thanks to everything the baby is going through and needs to be stimulated.  Between 18 and 20 months, the brain sorts and removes all connections that have not been used enough, so imagine the damage done to a child exposed to screens for 4 hours a day.  From age 2 to 6, studies show that there are already problems for 15 minutes a day.  I suggest that my patients let their children spend 30 minutes in front of the screens, three times a week, on non-school days.  If the child has problems, everything must be stopped: screens, as well as noisy and bright toys.  For older children between 6 and 18, it is advisable to spend less than an hour a day in front of the screens.  Here I propose to allow 2 hours three times a week.  I am aware that these changes are not easy and I sincerely believe that parenting in the digital age is something very complicated.  To help manage the screens, a family card is available on the Collective Surexposure Screen website so that the whole family gets involved, because it really is a general effort.
How to protect our children from screens?

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Is it inevitable or can we observe rapid progress by adopting new habits for the baby?

No, it is not a coincidence. And in light of all the parents I have been able to help, it is very important to convey this message. Stopping the screens is necessary to stimulate the brain connections again. When the child is addicted and has problems, when the screens are removed and the “weaning” phase is passed, the problem disappears, especially when the child is very young. This is good news: thanks to the great plasticity of the brain at this age, the disorders are reversible. It works, it’s fast, it’s spectacular. For further progress, it is also helpful to do speech therapy or psychomotor sessions, because sometimes some children cannot even hold a pencil in their hand.

What to do when the school encourages children to use these digital tools?You should know that in kindergarten and elementary school children use very little screens. If he is framed with his lover, every week for 30 minutes, there will be no problems. In college, we use screens to learn computers, and that’s fine as long as we don’t use them for reading or math exercises. It really is the overdose of home screens that is problematic. Sometimes the school distributes screens that end up being overused in the home .

Children are provided with tools that can be addictive on a large scale. I see groups of parents forming to fight this.

When did you hear the alarm needed to be sounded?

In 2017 I posted a video on YouTube. For some years now I have been observing children with enormous language delays, children who did not even look me in the eye, who did not answer their name. Gradually, there were more and more of them. When talking to the parents of these children, the common denominator was overexposure to the screens. Very quickly, and with the help of the parents, I was able to see great progress following the cessation of screens in these little ones. My own children encouraged me to talk about it publicly and on March 1, 2017 I chose to post this video, which is still available by the way.

You have been publicly engaged in this struggle for several years, but you are only publishing your book now. Why ?

With the health crisis, this topic has become even more topical as screens are increasingly part of the environment of children and parents. After my video, I was contacted by several publishers, but my choice fell on Éditions du Rocher. It was a lot of work, but I have absolutely no regrets. When we see that an informed parent can reverse the child’s trajectory, it is in the public interest to get this message across. With my collective we try to raise awareness among public authorities, media and professionals. For me it is a duty to do it, through all possible channels.

What do you expect from the release of this book?

A general awareness. I would like parents to realize that they themselves will bring more and more to their children of any screen that recites the alphabet in three languages, even if they do not speak French or have not studied. Parents think they do well by confronting their children with so-called “educational” programs, but the best learning happens in the real world. Children need to be surrounded rather than equipped and they need connections rather than goods. There is a phrase that I really like at the beginning of my book: “The human being is born to be loved, the material goods to be used. If the world is turned upside down it is because we love goods and use human beings. “

By Sinine El Ansari Children in front of the screens: how to protect them?


How to protect our children from screens How to protect our children from screens

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