Head of Pedagogical Innovation Projects & Assurance Of Learning
Michel Desmurget, who holds a PhD in Neuroscience and is Director of Research at INSERM, has issued a warning to all adults, parents, professors, educators, and to the general public as a whole.
With such a shocking title, inciting you to read his book is, of course, the objective! However, it is not the most pleasant of books as it does not offer up much good news nor does it make for a light-hearted, exciting read. It is more of a scientifically substantiated assessment of the current situation, which is rather frightening, disturbing, and even guilt-inducing. The only good news is that it is possible for each and every one of us to reverse the trend, committing to change on a personal level!
On the basis of the findings from numerous research studies carried out over many years, Michel Desmurget demonstrates how digital technology and screens are making us apathetic and controlling us, endangering the development of our brains, our cognitive faculties and even our health.
Although the digital transformation may present numerous advantages, it is in fact changing our society much more profoundly than we realise and having consequences that we are not even aware of yet. However, each of us has a responsibility as adults, or course, but also as parents and even teachers.
The excessive use of screens and dematerialised content from early childhood can lead to problems. It is this most critical period in the development of cognitive skills, human interaction and speech which Michel Desmurget explores. He looks at the issue in its entirety:
- too many screens in all their forms (TVs, tablets, telephones, computers)
- too much screen time every day, to the detriment of other important activities (several hours a day on average)
- starting from an extremely early age (from the early years)
- unsuitable or even inappropriate content (in the guise of so-called educational content)
As a result, memory, speech, concentration, sleep, etc. will gradually be irreversibly affected, to a greater or lesser extent.
The subsequent effects include failure at school, difficulties in social and emotional development, and even an increased risk of obesity.
The underlying economic rationale for the development of the digital technology industry has for a long time overshadowed the negative impact. This has been achieved by using misleading information and biased expert reports to play it down, or even by making screens and digital content appear as an ‘opportunity’ for the development of our children and young adults.
We have lost our sense of perspective and the necessary hindsight to deal with these issues. We therefore now need to demonstrate, individually and then collectively, a form of ‘intellectual strength’.
What kind of society are we building? What kind of future society do we want for our children? Now we have access to the right information, can we ask ourselves this question and answer it with the benefit of hindsight?
The increasing amount of information, sources of information, and the proliferation of social media where everyone can voice their opinion is rendering us ‘deaf’ and gradually making us increasingly unable to think critically. Overwhelmed by information, very often contradictory, we often quickly turn to information that reassures us or reinforces our natural convictions. This is because it is more difficult and time-consuming to search for and double-check information, and to verify the quality of sources, as well as to challenge the apparent convenience offered by this digital world.
As a result, we are losing the necessary perspective to make informed choices.
Since we are all affected, both on a personal and a professional level, I encourage you to read this book and form your own opinions.
‘Less screen time = more life’… or rather how we should use digital tools in a carefully balanced and informed way, especially when it comes to the younger generation.