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06 November 2020

The "Children of the Digital Age" Have Lower Intelligence Quotients than Their Parents

The "children of the digital age" have lower intelligence quotients than their parents
bbc.com/afrique/monde, October 30, 2020 - translation

Experts say a two-year-old boy spends an
average of nearly three hours a day in front
of screens today.
Getty Images
In this book, the neuroscientist Michel Desmurget (Lyon, 1965), director of research at the French National Institute of Health, has concrete and conclusive data on how digital devices seriously affect, and worse, the neuronal development of children and young people.

"There is simply no excuse for what we are doing to our children and for the way we are endangering their future and their development", warns the expert, who has visited renowned research centers such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of California. His book has become a huge bestseller in France.

Are today's youth the first generation in history to have a lower IQ than the previous generation?

Researchers have observed in many parts of the world that IQs increase from generation to generation. This is what has been called the "Flynn effect", named after the American psychologist who described this phenomenon.

It is true that IQ is strongly influenced by factors such as the health system, the school system, nutrition, but recently this trend has started to reverse in several countries.

According to the expert, even in countries where socio-economic factors have remained fairly stable for decades, the "Flynn effect" has started to diminish.

In these countries, "digital children" are the first children to have an IQ lower than that of their parents. This is a trend that has been documented in Norway, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, France, etc.

And what is the cause of this drop in IQ?

Unfortunately, it is not yet possible to determine the specific role of each factor, including for example contamination (especially early exposure to pesticides) or exposure to screens.

What we do know for sure is that while a child's screen time isn't the only culprit, it has a significant effect on their IQ.

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

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.

And why is the use of digital devices causing all of this?

The causes are also clearly identified: it will involve a decrease in the quality and quantity of intra-family interactions, which are fundamental for the development of language and emotions; a reduction in the time devoted to other more rewarding activities (homework, music, art, reading, etc.). ); the interruption of sleep, which is quantitatively shortened and qualitatively degraded; over-stimulation of attention, which causes impaired concentration, learning and impulsivity; intellectual under-stimulation, which prevents the brain from developing to its full potential; and an excessively sedentary lifestyle which, in addition to the development of the body, influences the maturation of the brain.

What is the exact effect of the screen on the neurological system?

The brain is not a "stable" organ. Its "final" characteristics depend on experience.

According to specialists, the world in which we live, the challenges we face, modify both the structure and the functioning of the brain, and certain networks are created and strengthened, some are lost, some are thickened and some are thinned.

Recreational screen time has been observed to delay the anatomical and functional maturation of the brain within various cognitive networks related to language and attention.

It should be emphasized that not all activities fuel brain building equally effectively.

What does that mean?

Activities related to school, intellectual work, reading, music, art, sport, etc. have a structuring and nourishing power for the brain much more important than leisure screens.

Why are many parents unaware of the dangers of screens?

Because the information given to parents is partial and biased. The mainstream media are full of unfounded claims, misleading propaganda and inaccurate information. The disconnect between media content and scientific reality is often worrying, if not exasperating.

The digital industry generates billions of dollars in profits every year. And, of course, children and adolescents are a very lucrative resource.

Separating the wheat from the chaff is not easy, even for honest and conscientious journalists.

I think a fair information campaign on the impact of screens on development, with clear guidelines, would be a good start: no screens for children up to 6 years old and then no more than 30- 60 minutes a day.

If this digital orgy, doesn't stop, what can we expect?

An increase in social inequalities and a progressive division of our society between a minority of children preserved from this "digital orgy" - the so-called Alphas of Huxley's novel - who will possess through culture and language all the necessary tools to think and reflect about the world, and a majority of children with limited cognitive and cultural tools - the so-called Gammas in Huxley's novel - who are unable to understand the world and act as enlightened citizens.

Alpha will attend expensive private schools, with "real" human teachers.

The Gammas will attend virtual public schools with limited human support, where they will be fed a pseudo-language similar to Orwell's "Newspeak" and where they will be taught the basic skills of mid-level technicians (economic projections indicate that this type of job will be over-represented in the workforce of tomorrow).

A sad world in which, as sociologist Neil Postman said, they will have fun until death. A world in which, through constant and debilitating access to entertainment, they will learn to love their bondage. Sorry for not being more positive.

Michel Desmurget concludes that there is simply no excuse for what we do to our children and for the way in which we endanger their future and their development.

Original article in French:

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