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28 January 2023

France : A Proposed Law Wants to Fight against the Overexposure of Children to Screens

Children's screen time: should we ban the use of smartphones by teachers?
by Aurore Gayte, numerama.com, 25 January 2023 - translation

A bill wants to fight against the overexposure of children to screens. It contains 6 articles, and a bold suggestion: restrict the use of screens by supervisory staff in primary and nursery schools.

Limit excessive exposure of children to screens: this is the aim of a bill , tabled by the Renaissance parliamentary group (formerly En Marche). The text, which was co-signed by all the deputies of the group, must be examined by the Assembly “ in the spring ”, according to the cabinet of the deputy Caroline Janvier, who presented the bill.

In a press release sent on January 25, 2023, the MP for Loiret explains that she wants to fight against what she calls the " new evil of the century ", without having a " technophobic approach ". The 6 articles of the proposed law generally provide for better awareness of the risks incurred by children. But one article in particular catches the eye: it proposes to regulate the use of teachers' telephones, and to have the measures financed by... an increase in the price of tobacco.

What does the bill provide?

In detail, the bill contains 6 articles. The first, the longest, provides for the introduction of several measures:

  • the development of risk measurement tools;
  • the creation of a “ digital information platform for parents ”, to warn them of the risks “ related to digital screens for children ”;
  • the training of health and early childhood professionals in these risks;
  • the inclusion of prevention messages on the packaging of “ mobile phones, computers, tablets and similar products ”, explaining the “ risks incurred by the excessive use of these products on the psychomotor, physical and cognitive development of young children ”;
  • the regulation of “ the use, by supervising professionals, of mobile phones, digital tablets, televisions and similar equipment in the presence of supervised children ”.

It is this last point that particularly interests us. In the explanatory memorandum to the bill, at the start of the document, it is also specified that the latter " finally intends to limit the use of telephones, tablets and laptops and the like within early childhood structures and nursery and primary schools, by imposing on these establishments to provide for this purpose restrictive rules which concern supervisory professionals . »

If the law is passed, it could therefore limit teachers' use of electronic devices during lessons. It's unclear whether it would affect teachers' own phones, or "only" their classroom use of screens, such as tablets or a TV. The bill only indicates that the establishments concerned will have to put in place “ a risk prevention policy linked to excessive exposure to digital screens among students."

Measures financed by new tobacco taxes

The other 5 articles of the proposed law focus on prevention and information for parents. Article 2 provides for " the insertion of recommendations relating to the proper use of screens for young people in the pregnancy booklet ", the 3rd wants the Departmental Councils to take charge of the risk prevention policy, the 4th asks the departmental commissions to “ disseminate risk prevention messages ”, and the 5th “ gives the territorial educational project an explicit role in the prevention of overexposure of pupils to screens during extracurricular time ”.

The 6th article deals with the financing of these measures. It asks that the burden for the State be compensated “ by the creation of an additional excise tax on tobacco ” – which means a potential further increase in the price of cigarettes.

For Caroline Janvier, the bill aims to “ raise awareness of the proper use of screens ”, she explains in the press release. “ Building a public health policy on this subject is also a question of equal opportunities. It remains to be seen whether, as she hopes, the bill will be able to " overcome the political divisions" within the Assembly. Article 1 could, however, meet with some opposition from teachers and supervisory staff, as could the proposal to increase the excise duty on tobacco.

Original article in French:

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