Our crazy lives

I too gave my child a screen, probably too early. First, access to the iPad. For lots of reasons. Among these reasons: I was sometimes in the juice, sometimes at the end of my tether, putting him in front of a screen was sometimes a buoy…

Here, look The Clone Wars on my iPad while I prepare dinner…

It was 6:30 p.m., I had to make a detour to the grocery store because the fridge was empty, the heir was complaining, tired and hungry, the homework hadn’t been done.

“Here, take my iPad…”

Then he got his own phone.

I want to tell you: I was that parent. A human parent, with the contradictions and imperfections and bad calculations that being human entails. When I write about the virtual life that is eating up our real lives, I don’t want to make anyone feel guilty.

On the other end of the line, pediatrician Jean-François Chicoine raves about the place of screens in children’s lives: “It’s a disaster because it’s not understood: we’re like in a film where everyone smoked in the faces of the children. In 20 years, these screens left to children today, we will look back and it will be considered barbaric…”

I sent to Dr Chicoine’s article The Atlantic that I’ve been talking to you about for a week1, on the smartphone which has completely ruined childhood as it should be lived: in reality, interacting with other humans by playing, bickering, negotiating and collaborating. Real time spent with children has fallen by half in the United States over the past decade.

Nothing he read surprised Jean-François Chicoine, who has been a pediatrician for 40 years. The way virtual life screws up children’s development is the culmination of three phenomena, he notes.

Firstly, the “individualism” of the 1970s and 1980s, which did not exist much before. Corollary: the constant overprotection of children, who have been brooded over and over again, from decade to decade.

Secondly, the rise of screens in children’s lives: “It’s not the internet that has changed everything,” says the pediatrician. It’s the mobile phone and social networks. It was around 2008 that childhood ended. »

Third, the pandemic, which has increased the use of screens for young and old as well as the tendency to isolate themselves at home: “Take the idea of ​​teleworking,” he said. The children come home: the parents are in slippers, working. The pandemic has added another layer to confinement. We feel so good at home! There’s Netflix. We order what we need with Amazon. We’re having the chicken delivered…”

The other day, I told you that the public health administrator (surgeon general) of the United States believes that the minimum age of 13 to be on TikTok and other Snapchat – in addition to not being respected – is much too low2. The Dr Chicoine agrees: “Children should not be on social networks before 14, 16 years old, depending on their maturity, their (self-control). That doesn’t prevent them from having access to a telephone… The problem currently is that children receive telephones connected to social networks at 8, 9, 10, 11 years old…”

I know what the well-intentioned reader is thinking, the reader who, perhaps, with his lady reader, had children in another era: parents just have to turn off the phone and social networks!

Response from Dr Chicoine: “It’s more difficult than you think. It’s very difficult for average parents who are loving and well-intentioned towards their children to cut off their access to social media: kids are all about it! Their friends, neighbors… Their parents too. »

So Doc Chicoine himself plays the bad cop. He’s the bad guy, he’s the one who takes the odiousness on his shoulders: “In the office, I say to little Martin: ‘You’re 13, you take two medications, you have few friends, you don’t do sports, you’re gaining weight, you’re more and more near-sighted, you’re not doing well at school, you’re not sleeping well… So I told your parents to turn off your phone.” I do this because it’s too difficult for the parents, it’s painful for them. »

He also intervenes on parents, reminding them that we must break the tendency to lock ourselves up at home. Go out, play sports. Encourage children to play. Go to the museum, to the forest, to the Planetarium, to the Botanical Garden. Explore.

“It’s super hard to get them to do that.

— The children?

— The children And the parents. The temptation to stay in the cocoon is strong. »

The pediatrician insists that children need to play in real life, with other children. He insists on the importance of play: “It’s three hours of active play per day before the age of 7. »

And from the age of 7, it takes 30 to 60 minutes of intense physical activity, which only one child in three or four manages to do, says Jean-François Chicoine: “Children no longer have experience of movement, of space, confrontation. And they have more and more difficulty with the fine motor skills needed to manipulate a pencil. »

Nothing replaces reality to train children, reminds the pediatrician. What children find in social networks distracts attention, gives unattainable expectations and uses the mechanisms of addiction through the constant search for dopamine: “And it cuts off desire. On the screen, something is always happening… But it’s outside of them. They are in a situation of passivity, like in the stands. Their world is full, but they do nothing. They learn to deprive themselves of others, to no longer interact with others. It is immensely sad. »

What we find in the virtual, he says, is not necessarily false. “But it’s happening instead of real life.” »

I was that parent, I said. I’m not throwing an iPhone 6 at anyone, I just want to throw out some thoughts. Digital technology has become embedded in our lives without too many safeguards, without too many regulations, as always presented as a formidable innovation…

At the same time, our adult lives have become faster, cluttered and more complex. These gadgets were supposed to make our lives easier, but they also land work in our beds, they have blurred the line between work and life for many of us.

And sometimes, giving your child a screen while preparing dinner, while running, is what stops you from screaming when your child himself is screaming, exhausted from a long day at the school where you are. went to pick it up at 5:55 p.m., just before daycare closed…

So you give him your iPad or your phone, you find his favorite episode of Paw Patrol.

And you can prepare dinner in peace by drowning your feeling of always running out of time…

We can think about digital technology all we want, about the effect of TikTok on children, about the impact of Facebook on our desires for comparison and consumption as adults…

But one day we will also have to think about our way of life, about life that moves so quickly.

1. Read “Our children, the telephone and the virtual”

2. Read “Another story about children and screens”

reference: www.lapresse.ca

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