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Ban smartphones for kids? French researchers say yes

Addictive content available via screens is very bad for young people’s development and should be restricted, a new study finds.

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UPDATED: 02 May 2024, 2:19 pm

The tech industry is turning kids into “merchandise” and society needs to take matters into its own hands to protect them, according to new research commissioned by the French government. 

The authors of the resulting report recommended banning smartphones for kids under the age 13 and social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat from those under 18, among other measures.

They described the tech industry as deploying a profit-driven “strategy of capturing children’s attention, using all forms of cognitive bias to shut children away on their screens, control them, re-engage them and monetise them,” The Guardian reported.

French president Emmanual Macron commissioned the research with a view to regulate young people’s screen-time – something no other government has attempted to date.

[See more: Gadgets are drastically reducing children’s exposure to language]

The scientists behind the report said they did not want to blame parents for their kids’ possible over-exposure to screens, and described parents as “victims” of the tech industry themselves. However, they also recommended measures to help parents stay off screens when spending time with their kids.

Amine Benyamina, head of the psychiatry and addiction service at Paul-Brousse hospital and a co-leader on the research, said it was the addictive content available via screens – rather than the screens themselves – that had negative impacts on children’s intelligence, cognitive processes, ability to concentrate, eyesight and metabolism.

“Tech is and will remain a fantastic tool, but it has to act in people’s service, not people being reduced to serving a product,” he said.

While it remains unclear how the French government will proceed now the report is out, Macron has made it clear that he would like to see screen time regulated in French families.

UPDATED: 02 May 2024, 2:19 pm

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