Give a smartphone to a child, is it like giving him a gram of cocaine?

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"Offering a smartphone to your child is similar to giving him a gram of cocaine" is a very shared warning on social networks and on which readers have challenged us. Carried in particular by "Health + magazine" – a site deemed as unreliable in the Decodex, because it regularly publishes distorted information, or even completely misleading on health – this message anxiety is very exaggerated.

Read the survey: Health + Magazine, a site emblematic of the "bad information" on health

What is affirmed

"I always tell people, when you give your child a smartphone or tablet, it's like giving him a gram of cocaine or a bottle of wine, could you leave him alone in his room with some alcohol or drugs at its disposal? "

The author of this statement, at a seminar for teachers in the UK in June, is the founder of a London addiction clinic, Mandy Saligari. She claims to base her expertise on her experience as a former "addict", when she was a producer for television.

"Why do we care so little about these things [les smartphones et tablettes] compared to drugs and alcohol, while they act on the same brain function? "she added.

Why it's very exaggerated

Mme Saligari does not say if his intention, taken literally by many sites sensationalists, was imaged – contacted by The worldshe did not answer us. But she uses the argument of a similar cerebral reaction to support her comparison of drugs and smartphones. Why is this so-called equivalence exaggerated?

Drugged children: risks of stroke

Taking drugs in still-growing children can affect the evolution of their brains: "It disrupts the normal functioning of cells, especially during the construction of connections in the brain. In case of taking cocaine, there are areas of the brain that normally should not work that will work full, and other areas, which should have developed, that will stay dormant ", explains Alain Baert, toxicologist at the University Hospital of Rennes, interviewed by Europe 1.

Such intoxication can go as far as provoking seizures or even strokes. Effects that do not have, fortunately, tablets and smartphones.

What we know about smartphone addiction

If it seems legitimate to control the time spent by a child on a screen and / or the Internet and help parents in this direction (in January, two shareholders of Apple asked the group's management to strengthen the fight against the addiction of the youngest to the iPhone), research is still in its infancy as to the effects of these devices on the brain.

47% under 3 years use interactive screens (tablet, smartphone), for a median of 30 minutes per week, and nearly a third (29%) do it alone, according to a 2016 survey of parents of 428 children under 12 followed by 144 pediatric adherents to the French Association of Ambulatory Pediatrics (AFPA). A majority of children in this age group (70%) watch television for a median of 45 minutes each day.

Nomophobia, the fear of being separated from one's mobile phone, has become for some a very real affection; real detox centers have even opened in China or Japan. But, for the international scientific community, the addiction to the smartphone is not recognized as such, neither by the Academy of Medicine (2012), nor by the Academy of Sciences (2013).

To date, only gambling addiction is inscribed in the Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Psychiatrists Reference Manual. They prefer to talk about excessive practices.

Read the decryption: Health: Why it is so difficult to find reliable information on the Internet

In a forum at World, published in February, a collective of professionals of care, prevention and researchers called not to give in to demagogy, recalling that sensational information will not help prevent the risks associated with new technologies: comparison between drug and smartphone, but also creation of causal link between exposure to screens and autism …

"For some time now, videos have been circulating on the Net: signs of autism will occur in toddlers very exposed to television (…) These videos evoke a large number of children exposed to screens for six to twelve hours a day (…) But a child left so important in front of a receiver is de facto the victim of a serious educational and / or emotional deprivation ", note the authors of the tribune. They add that, moreover, no study to date can establish a causal relationship between screen consumption and autism.

On the other hand, whether tablets, smartphones or television, some specialists stress the need for "Education for attention"according to the terms of neuroscientist Jean-Philippe Lachaux. The French Society of Pediatrics recommends restricting the use of screens to living spaces and advises parents to set an example. As for the school, since the beginning of the school year, it prohibits in principle the use of the mobile phone, except for exceptions "For educational purposes".

Read also Addiction, concentration, performance … what we know (or not) the effects of the smartphone

Mathilde Damgé

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