A consultation to get young children “addicted” to screens off the screen

A consultation to get young children “addicted” to screens off the screen

“As a result of watching television, his brain stopped being stimulated.” At the Jean-Verdier hospital (AP-HP) in Bondy (Seine-Saint-Denis), a pediatrician receives distraught parents to help them get their young children off screens.

Every Monday morning, Dr Sylvie Dieu Osika holds the only hospital consultation dedicated to this addiction for children under 4 years old.

At 3 and a half years old, Cheickna Ousmane “unable to pronounce clear sentences“, explains his father, Ousmane, who works in logistics.

The cause: an addiction to screens, established from a very young age.

From nine months, the little boy could “spend your entire days in front of the television“, regrets his father today.

We were in the middle of Covid, we didn’t go out, so we put on the TV. First programs for us, then for him. When we turned it off, he had seizures. That’s how we knew something was wrong“, pleaded his mother, Sissoko.

Last August, during a visit to the emergency room for an ear infection, the little boy’s seizures raised suspicions of a underlying problem, undoubtedly linked to screens. For several months, his language development had also stopped.

His uncle, who is a doctor, scared us very much by mentioning symptoms similar to autism“, reports the father.

“Be available”

So in September, the parents made a radical decision: the television in the apartment was stored in the cellar. “Instead, we bought games“, says the mother. “We don’t want to repeat the same mistakes with our little sister, who just turned two.“.

Since then, the toddler seems to have made progress: he looks into the eyes again and has opened up to others, his parents say.

A decision applauded by Dr Dieu Osika, who encourages them to continue their efforts: “In his presence, you must absolutely ban screens and be available for him”.

On platforms, children’s channels, we are made to believe that they are stimulated by learning the alphabet, nursery rhymes or even a foreign language, but quite the opposite is happening: their brain stops working , he becomes totally passive“, explains the doctor.

The pediatrician opened her consultation in 2019, after realizing that screens, like sleep or eating, had an impact on the child’s development.

When they meet her, after several months of waiting, parents must complete a questionnaire to assess their child’s overexposure. After a clinical examination, the pediatrician provides parents with advice on “weaning”. She will see the family again at a follow-up appointment.

“A few complicated months”

At two and a half years old, Liam, another little patient, is a bit “in his bubble”, has “a lot of seizures” and doesn’t yet speak. “Following an alert from the nursery, we stopped giving him a phone or tablet“, my mother’s story, Ahlan.

But he still watches television in the morning, turned on by his 6-year-old big brother.

The whole family will have to participate to succeed in dropping out and this may go through a few complicated months.“, warns the pediatrician.

If, initially, the consultation was aimed at children under 11 years old, it was gradually restricted, in the face of an explosion in demand, to under 6 years old then to under 4 years old.

It is now a public health problem“, alerts Sylvie Dieu Osika, hoping that the mission of the group of experts, charged by April by the Élysée with evaluating the impact of screens on young people, will this time lead to concrete measures.

Last March, a bill to prevent overexposure of young people was adopted by the Assembly but must still be examined in the Senate. We have already lost a lot of time“, sighs the pediatrician.

If the problem is addressed early enough, it can be remedied.“, she reassures, however.