Michel Desmurget is a neuroscientist and director of research at the French National Institute of Health. He has written a book with this peculiar title: The digital cretin factory, which has become a best seller in the neighboring country. In it, Desmurget concludes that digital devices are negatively affecting the neural development of children and young people.

In an interview conducted by the BBCDesmurget argues that until now, the so-called ‘Flynn effect’ occurred, that is, the IQ increased from generation to generation. But recently, this effect has been reduced: “The ‘digital natives’ are the first children that they have a lower IQ than their parents. It is a trend that has been documented in Norway, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, France … “, says the scientist.

On the causes, Desmurget states that “we know for sure that even if the time a child spends in front of a screen is not the only culprit, has an important effect on IQ “.

“Several studies have shown that when the use of television or video games increases, the IQ and cognitive development decrease“, he maintains.

This researcher adds: “The main foundations of our intelligence are affected: language, concentration, memory, culture (defined as a body of knowledge that helps us organize and understand the world). Ultimately, these impacts lead to a significant drop in academic performance. “

On the reason why the use of digital devices causes these effects, Desmurget explains: “The causes are also clearly identified: decrease in the quality and quantity of intrafamily interactions, which are fundamental for the development of language and emotional development; decrease in the time devoted to other more enriching activities (homework, music, art, reading, etc.); sleep disruption, which is quantitatively shortened and qualitatively degraded; overstimulation of attention, leading to disorders of concentration, learning and impulsivity; Intellectual under-stimulation, which prevents the brain from unfolding its full potential; and an excessive sedentary lifestyle that, in addition to body development, influences brain maturation “.

According to the neuroscientist, “it has been observed that the time spent in front of a screen for recreational reasons delays anatomical maturation and function of the brain within various cognitive networks related to language and attention “.

His position is not totally against the use of devices: “Should students be taught fundamental computer tools and skills? Sure. Likewise, can digital technology be a relevant tool in the pedagogical arsenal of teachers? It is part of a structured educational project and if the use of a software determined effectively promotes transmission. “

“However, when a screen is placed in the hands of a child or an adolescent, the more impoverishing recreational uses.

This includes, in order of importance: television, that it continues to be the number one screen in all ages (movies, series, clips, etc.); then the video game (mainly action and violent), and finally, around adolescence, a useless self-exposure frenzy on social media“, he maintains.

Screen time

Desmurget explains the current data on screen time for minors: “On average, almost three hours a day for 2-year-olds, about five hours for 8-year-olds and more than seven hours for teenagers. “

His proposal is radically opposite: “The general idea is simple: at any age, the least is the best. Beyond this general rule, more specific guidelines can be provided according to the child’s age. Before age 6, the ideal is not to have screens. “

“From the age of 6, if the contents are adapted and sleep is preserved, it can go up to half an hour a day, even an hour, without an appreciable negative influence,” he says, adding “other relevant rules: no screens in the morning before going to school, nothing at night before going to bed or when they are with other people. And, above all, no screens in the bedroom.