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The idea behind the Rift is simple: for each topic of debate, we provide you with an expertise based on a pro-con approach, written by competent and legitimate experts. We want to help you make your own opinion, and guide you on first steps to civic engagement.
Schools should help raise awareness regarding health and societal risks
Health journalist, sophrologist, specialist in screen overexposure disorders and prevention.
Within schools, offering children an education through digital tools without raising awareness to prevent dangers related to their screen time is not enough. Children and teenagers have to be taught that spending too much time on a screen can be damaging to their mental and physical health. We must teach them how to identify fake news and be careful with their image reproduction rights.
The government and schools must raise awareness among young people
Since we are now using phones and computers both for our hobbies and for learning purposes, we are getting into public health issues. The government and schools must raise awareness among young people, and there isn’t enough emphasis put on prevention regarding screen time. In that regard, we must give school its civic role back.
The priority is to teach young people how to become aware and cautious screen users. For that purpose, it is important to know what kind of content is involved. Digital technology is already part of our daily life, and the goal should not be to get rid of it. Nevertheless, we have to remain careful when it comes to the personal use of children, especially with smartphones, for they are an open door to social media. If we let children use a smartphone at school, their ability to stay focused might severely be affected. However, when it comes to schools, we are talking about educational content. Some tools are useful to facilitate learning. That being said, some teachers find it hard to manipulate digital tools. There have already been technical problems with tools from the National Education department. Moreover, access to digital tools can lead to new social inequalities. Are we going to ask every single family to be equipped with a computer or a tablet? Not everyone can afford that.
We must keep other alternatives that do not require the use of digital technology
Furthermore, if a computer can be a good educational tool, books can still fulfill that task just as well. Of course, we must embrace the digital age and children must be taught how to use computers and digital tools that are now necessary to find a job, such as Zoom, emails, PowerPoint, etc. But that isn’t the sole role of school. Books and reading should remain central: we can learn just as well with books. The idea is not to try to live without digital technology, but to be careful and keep other alternatives that do not require the use of computers, tablets or phones. These alternatives will encourage dialogue and discernment in children.
On top of that, one could argue that during school breaks, children would be more enticed to stay in front of their phone or laptop than go outside and exert themselves. It is hard to say whether digital innovation and smartphones are actually causing more sedentary behaviors in school. But one could argue that the temptation to keep using school digital tools during breaks can be high.
Schools have to provide physical, cultural and artistic activities
Nowadays, young people lack physical activity in France and the combination between screen time and a sedentary lifestyle is really dangerous. Overexposure to digital screens can induce heart and respiratory illnesses. Eyesight can also be affected, since looking at a computer or tablet all day prevents us from using our distance vision. More and more children are affected by myopia. As such, we have to make sure that they spend time outdoors whenever possible. Our national education system has to provide young people with physical, cultural and artistic activities to counterbalance their increasing screen time.
Thus, even without giving up on education tools at school, we have to watch for the screen time of the youngest. It is crucial for their mental health. Since children spend more and more time on tablets, phones and computers at home, schools have to be a place where awareness regarding social and health risks will be raised.
Digital technology is an essential educational tool for the future
Scientist and entrepreneur, co-founder of RisingUp, writer of “the power of babies”
In France, we have strict recommendations regarding screen time for children. However, are these recommendations based on science and studies, or on ideology and fear of technology?
Screen time can be a symptom of a health issue, but not the cause
Some say that phone usage is dangerous for children. And yet, all the studies are unanimous : screen time alone does not cause weight gain or learning difficulties. If a majority of children spending a lot of time on screens suffer from obesity, are digital tools responsible for it? No, for all children are not equal when it comes to obesity.
A child for whom it is hard to move because of his/her weight will tend to spend more time on screens. But that’s not all. There are factors that can cause obesity and its morbidity: genetic characteristics, the child’s environment, etc. In reality, children who spend more time on their computer or phone are those who are already fragile (suffering from obesity, autism or language delay). Too much screen time means that there is a problem, but it is not through removing digital technology that we can effectively cure the child.
Computers are efficient and adaptive education tools
Many studies show that children learn thanks to digital tools, but under certain circumstances. Just a few years ago, the new technologies were television, radio and video cassette tapes. Nowadays, digital tools are increasingly interactive. Depending on our response to the digital tool, our actions can receive feedback. This makes a real difference: it is thanks to that mechanism that children can learn with digital technology. If children remain passive when using computers or tablets, then they won’t get much from it. However, if they are asked questions and if they get answers, then they will understand, depending on their actions, what worked and what didn’t. Basic tools like quizzes can be really effective. They allow each child to immediately get feedback on their work.
Computers and tablets are a tool with advantages as well as disadvantages. A screen is useless when a child is sad or in case of conflict. Teachers have to handle these situations. Technology will never replace human beings. Nevertheless, they can help us create or maintain social interaction. For instance, social media makes it possible for us to share our passion, to find new information, to be curious. Without denying that there are also negative aspects related to social media and that we must warn children about them. What is at stake is teaching children how to use digital tools. They will definitely need these tools in the future, just like they need to know how to properly use a fork or know how to be polite.
France is far behind when it comes to digital technology
Despite the efforts in the past few years with the Investments for the Future program (PIA) or the French digital plan for education, France is far behind when it comes to digital technology. In the United States, in Canada, in Norway or even in China, digital education is already implemented in schools. We must thus help teachers be aligned with these new methods through their continuous education and initial training. They should be offered relevant and efficient tools. There is no doubt that digital tools can help optimize education, and we urgently have to develop their use.