Digital and youth mental health: what if that wasn't exactly what we like to think?

A first scientific milestone showed that our fears about young people and social media were probably exaggerated.

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Automated English translation - (sometimes hilarious) mistakes can creep in! ;)

This is news that has passed under the radar recently. A first scientific milestone showed that our fears about young people and social media were probably exaggerated.

The research, conducted by the professor Andrew Przybylski and the doctoral student Amy Orben, both at the prestigious Oxford University, spanned eight years and analyzed more than 12,500 responses from adolescents aged 10 to 15.

Minor negative psychological impacts

Essentially, the publication Social media's enduring effect on adolescent life satisfaction shows that young people's satisfaction with life is more focused on the family context, the circle of friends and all the school aspect. I remind you that this clashes with the concept widely disseminated by the media and even by researchers in education and psychology that social media can cause, in the medium or long term, Dependencies, mental illnesses and even psychosis. Although this is certainly not excluded as a scenario, the fact remains that young people seem well anchored in the present and above all, in reality. Precisely in this regard, I remember our apprehensions, those fearing that our young people will free themselves from reality to live a life more based on the virtual.

That's not all: another study by the same researchers published in Nature, The association between adolescent well-being and digital technology use, questions the alleged negative impacts on the psychology of our young people regarding the use of digital technologies. For them there is indeed negative impacts, but they are minimalor even negligible.

Screen time and sanity?

That's not all! Przybylski and Orben also question in Screens, Teens, and Psychological Well-Being: Evidence From Three Time-Use-Diary Studies the inevitably positive correlation between screen time and deteriorating mental health of our teenagers. After polling more than 17,000 Irish, British and American teenagers, they come to the conclusion that the public discourse is alarmist. They rectify the situation by specifying that there is a positive correlation, but it is, once again, minimal, especially when used during the day. The "less minimal" positive correlation is more noticeable when used around bedtime, as research on sleep often indicates. blue light.

So, as educators and parents, would we have been afraid and exaggerated a little the situation with regard to our students?

A question of generational gap?

These prejudices which have been conveyed for many moons have revealed several things that strike me:

  1. Our apprehensions dictate our vision of a phenomenon that escapes us, that of the integration of technologies into the daily lives of young people, which in several respects could give us lessons in balance;
  2. We are unfortunately out of step with the reality of our young people today. For us, being a teenager is explained by the experiences that we have lived “in time”, with our resolutely nostalgic gaze where “it was better before”;
  3. The gap has been widening for at least a decade and it continues to widen between the generations that some call “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” (on this subject, read Marc Prensky);
  4. It is not our young people who are driving this ditch. It is we, the adults, who dig it. I think it's important to mention it.

I can't help but tip my hat to all those who have embraced the reality of young people to help them become citizens aware of their digital footprint, knowing how to demonstrate ethics in their real or virtual relationships with the members of their communities. respective communities.

Meanwhile, where is the use of technology in our classrooms? One item published last month by the american Benjamin herold begins as follows: “despite growing enthusiasm, elementary and secondary teachers remain skeptical that new technologies will transform public schools or increase teaching and learning potential. ". Herold and Education Week also conducted a survey of 700 American teachers who agree that their schools have adopted a variety of technologies over the past three years and, for me, two areas of concern are highlighted:

  1. Only 29 % of teachers surveyed believe that technologies can be a lever for pedagogical innovation and changes in professional practices in education;
  2. Teachers who use technology are mainly doing what they did before, but adding the technological ingredient to “spice up” their traditional approaches.

This is worrying, isn't it?

What conclusions can be drawn from all this new information?

In my opinion :

  1. We recognize the contribution of technology in health, in public transport, in forensic science and in a multitude of other fields, but not in education. In education, technology is a threat.
  2. Recall that, despite the scandal of the time, TNI arrived en masse in our classes from 2011 and the first iPads found themselves in the hands of students a little later. In the same vein, note that laptops in 1 to 1 mode have been in the hands of students since the end of the 20the century. Am I to understand that in 2019, we are still at the “substitution” stage of the SAMR model of Ruben Puentedura?
  3. Worse, we maintain prejudices about said technologies in relation to their impact on our students, a discourse widely taken up by the media, the political, which misleads parents who, in turn, fuel their mistrust of educational institutions and those who work there.

We are driving our own technological divide and worse, we are training our students in it. At the base, however, we all have an important double responsibility: to prepare our students for the challenges that await them and to ensure that the training they receive is in line with the social and cultural orientations of the society in which the school is located. 'school.

At least, there is something positive in all of this: I clearly notice that in the conferences, in the conferences with a more “pedagonumeric” vocation, there are more and more new faces. This is good news! Associations of educational professionals, for teachers, management, support staff, as well as unions, are increasingly bringing technology to the forefront in their meetings and in the training activities they provide. offer to their members. Another great news!

On a humorous note ...

It seems important to remember the wise words from the Quebec group Rock et Belles Oreilles dating from the 1980s: "the computer is our friend"!

Also, if satire appeals to you, read Rachel Klein's text, published a year ago in The New Yorker, titled " Limiting Your Child's Fire Time: A Guide for Concerned Paleolithic Parents ". Here is a text that I would have liked to have written 😉

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About the Author

Marc-André Girard
Marc-André Girard holds a bachelor's degree in humanities education (1999), a master's degree in history teaching (2003) and a master's degree in educational management (2013). He is currently a doctoral student in school administration. He specializes in change management in schools as well as in educational leadership. He is also interested in 21st century skills to be developed in education. He holds a managerial position in a public primary school and gives lectures on educational leadership, pedagogical approaches, change in the school environment as well as on the professionalization of teaching. He took part in educational expeditions to France, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Morocco. In September 2014, he published the book “Le change en milieu scolaire québécois” with Éditions Reynald Goulet and, in 2019, he published a trilogy on the school of the 21st century with the same publisher. He frequently collaborates with L'École branchée on educational issues. He is very involved in everything that surrounds the professional development of teachers and school administrators as well as the integration of ICT in education. In March 2016, he received a CHAPO award from AQUOPS for his overall involvement.

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