At the start of the new school year when pupils in pursuit of performance race towards “digital everything”, alarm bells are ringing.
Digital everything: beware of losing control
Recent reports from paediatricians and speech therapists are sounding the alarm. The development of an exponential number of children is being disrupted by excessive exposure to ever-more invasive screen-based devices.
Children exposed to screens too often risk impairing their development and finding themselves adrift in the nebulous domain of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Doctors observing these children have identified a pattern of behaviour veering straight from apathy to overexcitement, with no happy medium in the processing of their emotions. Side effects may include a loss of sense and sensibility, hence the capacity for empathy, which is an integral part of being human.
The “flapping hands” symptom has also emerged: owing to the swiping movements their hands make on touch screens, very young children find it hard to hold a pencil in their fingers…
Marketing dictates: smoke screens?
Marketing has plunged full blast into this race towards “digital everything”, while parents, always full of good intentions, are now having to cope with digital devices beyond their understanding.
As with the discovery of the magical force of electricity in the past, it is not a question of denying the evidence of technological progress but of urging vigilance. Under the cloak of performative education, brands have put apps on the market that will make your child seem like a prodigy: apps to learn the names of all the colours in a foreign language by the age of three and other such fun tests. But let’s not lose sight of the bricks that form the foundation of our little ones’ development.
First, interactivity: not in the digital sense of the term, no, but in the sense of “normal” interaction that exists without digital devices. Tablets will never replace a babysitter, the presence of a parent or teacher…
Second, love: one must qualify marketing dictates that relegate parents to the rank of “has-beens”. Of course your “digital native” offspring will far outstrip you in knowledge of new technologies, but, on the other hand, nobody needs a tutorial to learn how to love one’s child…
Regression disguised as modernity?
Studies carried out on how the majority of states in the USA have given up teaching cursive writing show the non-negligible impact on children’s psychomotor development. In fact, typing on a computer implies using two hands, whereas writing with a pen is controlled by one side of the brain that processes language connections. Neuroscientists have been issuing warnings about this change for several years.
Several lobbies have long battled for remedies for all sorts of hyperactivity, which now makes us stop and think about the kind of future we want for our children. Today, the ways and means of reducing stress are legion, from the innocuous hand spinner to heavy-handed medication such as methylphenidate (sold under various trade names, e.g. Ritalin). Yet our children are not castratable pets to be calmed by putting in chemical straightjackets.
Don’t slam tablets, mete out their use instead
O Innovation in digital technology is high profileO but not M exclusive. We all need tools, but we should not be enslaved by digital technology. It should not hinder a fundamental education that strives to make children independent, a term incompatible with addicted.
The teachers to whom we entrust our children for several hours each day should be trained to introduce digital devices as teaching aids. One should not forget that screen-based devices are potentially addictive. The subject has been researched by some highly motivated people, but this should now become a global concern, so that “digital everything” will become a “migratory” (in the positive sense of the term) not a “mutational” goal and that future generations will still be endowed with empathy and other human qualities. The future does not need a contingent of dumb mutants. Screens and screams…