What if mobile phones were affecting people’s brains?

This photo taken on June 26, 2018 shows Cambodian students using mobile phones at a modern school compound built under Prime Minister Hun Sen's administration campaign for the "new generation" schools programme in Phnom Penh (AFP)
  • Lim Tola
  • October 5, 2019 5:36 AM

“La Fabrique du crétin digital” (the making of the digital idiot).

Under this straightforward title, French researcher Michel Desmurget has just published a book that summarizes scientific research conducted on the effects of mobile-phone screen use. His conclusions are clear: Screens constitute a health threat and turn children into idiots. 

Drop in concentration, sleep disturbance, risks of cardiovascular disease,  children’s language collapsing, drop in school performance: The effects of immoderate use of tablets and other mobile or “smart” phones by the very young are indisputable, according to this researcher, in view of the studies he has compiled. 

Regarding school performance, all studies lead to the same conclusion. “After six years old, from one hour per day—and even a half hour if one opts for a strict reading of the studies–school performance goes down,” he proclaimed in an interview to the newspaper La Croix in France.  

The more children look at those screens, the more their IQs decrease, the researcher points out, recommending not to give recreational screens to children under 6, and then to limit to one hour per day their total use of it.    

Less drastic, the World Health Organization recommends not have children under one use screens and then, to allow children under 5 one-hour use per day, although making this a half hour would be even better. 

Without referring to any specific study but simply exasperated of always seeing their students with their eyes down looking at their mobile phones—even during class—mainly to social network, some school directors in the country have decided to simply prohibit phones on school time including recreations.  

However, here, where access to documentation remains limited, mobile phones, when properly used, may constitute a formidable tool in support of education.   

And so, here is a convoluted contradiction to resolve.

On one hand, excessive use of these screens may affect mental capacity, but on the other hand, those same screens can be a resource for knowledge and education. 

And yet, while mainly used by young people for social and recreational purposes, mobile phones were conceived to be addictive and used without moderation. 

According to Desmurget, this amounts to a health scandal. “They don’t talk much [of the screens’ harmful effects] because the economic interests are gigantic! The tobacco industry took 40 years to acknowledge that cigarettes were carcinogenic. We face the same disinformation techniques and a health scandal of the same magnitude. 

“If any disease had the same effects as those screens on our children, we would enlist an army of researchers,” he said in the La Croix newspaper interview.  

Are “smarto-phage” children and young people condemned to the imbecility for which the researcher destined them?


Maybe not if their parents, who buy those devices and stick them in their hands when they are very young so they won’t require their attention, are aware of the risk incurred by their offspring and teach them to use this technology. 

Unless one is a fool, no one wants to jeopardize one’s child mental capacity. 

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