Back to school: screens, allies of our children’s mental health?

Controversial or even demonized, screens are nevertheless promising tools. Back to school, often disruptive to the mental well-being of children, is an opportunity to showcase their strengths.

Back to school is a high point in the educational journey of our children, but also unfortunately a stress factor, due to the modification of their habits, their work tools, or their hobbies, all often accompanied by good resolutions. . Among the recurring subjects, exposure to screens has historically been the subject of lively debates, as well as very definite recommendations. And for good reason ! Because of children’s still developing behavioral control abilities and their brains’ strong craving for screens, they are often demonized or even singled out as the cause of all ills. However, if like any powerful tool, its use is accompanied by rules that should be respected, many voices are being raised today even in the medical profession to weigh up overly simplistic positions, and to consider (finally) this tool is actually very promising to address the many challenges of mental health.

The screen to reduce anxiety

Anxiety disorders in children are among the most common disorders… and the most difficult to identify! Because the latter do not always have the capacity to identify or verbalize them on the one hand, but also because their manifestations are diverse and most often physical (headaches, or stomachaches for example). In fact, they primarily lead to examinations of the body rather than the mind… It should be noted that the so-called “preschool” (3 to 5 years old) and “adolescent” (13/14 years old) ages are also the most conducive to development of this anxiety.

But when it sets in and lasts, it can have significant repercussions on daily life, and lead to problematic situations ranging from reduced attention span to anxious school refusal. Here, the screens already provide effective and concrete help to children and parents, including in many French hospitals, and this on the skills to help with identification, measurement, and daily monitoring. These applications allow the youngest to become aware of their emotions (constituting a fundamental step), then to be offered teaching aids that are constantly adapted, such as cardiac coherence, mindfulness meditation, or even simple exercises based on cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBT), clinically and scientifically validated.

The screen as a drug substitute

In a context of hospitalization of the child, even short and benign, recourse is unfortunately still too frequent to sedatives in premedication, that is to say before the medical or surgical act. However, and always at the initiative of caregivers only, screens as sources of distraction to the feeling of pain have, here again, proven themselves. From a simple cartoon to a real virtual reality device, via games, the latter have even found a clinically documented justification, following a study of almost a year carried out in a Lyon children’s hospital, in 2013 and 2014. The advantages are numerous both for the patient (faster remission, no side effects), and for the health establishment (less expensive solution, and allowing faster discharges, beneficial to their necessary and urgent decongestion) . So what are we waiting for to generalize and standardize uses? That the anxiety – and therefore the mental well-being – of patients finally become a subject considered by hospital management, at least in the same way as the assessment of pain…

The educational support screen

Main source of information or reassurance for the parents, the screen is of course also their ally in a better knowledge and apprehension of the mental pathologies of their children, and it seemed essential to us to recall it here. But we also wanted to focus on coding skills for kids! There are indeed many online solutions today for learning to code from an early age, with lessons that nourish creative thinking, logical reasoning, or even collaborative work. And then, give them the keys as soon as possible to understand this Internet which will be an integral part of their life, their work, some of their social interactions, or even demystify for them the workings of this artificial intelligence which is causing so much debate… Is this not betting on a generation that is more informed, more measured, endowed with better free will and therefore more responsible in its relationship to screens?

Ultimately, we wanted to remind you that, like the subject of mental health as a whole, the theme of screens, including for children, is imperative to be dispassionate in order to grasp all the nuances, and remain pragmatic in our recommendations. . To date, let’s be clear: no direct adverse effect has been medically observed. A recent study conducted by the University of Oxford notably showed the absence of any alteration in the quality of life among video game players, just as a meta-analysis carried out by four major American universities concluded last July to the existence of lasting benefits in the use of mobile technologies for young people. The harmful effects of screens are especially present in our children (but not only) when they remain passive vis-à-vis them, or when the time allocated to the screen encroaches on other activities that meet their needs. essential: sleep in the first place but also sports activities or socializing. While society as a whole, and our politicians, are rightly alarmed about the increase in disorders observed among the youngest among us, we bet that it is a question of remaining positive and open to innovative solutions. Do not ignore the pitfalls, but know how to take advantage of the characteristics of this tool to transform this former enemy into a new ally.

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Back to school: screens, allies of our children’s mental health?


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