“How about we look up? A class facing the screens", on Public Senate: a teacher films his students and helps them regain control

Faced with the profusion of screens, Gilles Vernet, teacher and director, carried out an original experiment

“How about we look up? A class facing the screens", on Public Senate: a teacher films his students and helps them regain control

Faced with the profusion of screens, Gilles Vernet, teacher and director, carried out an original experiment. This former trader suggested to his CM2 students at the Manin school, in the 19th arrondissement of Paris, to make them think about the place screens occupy in their lives, over the course of a school year. He had already made a notable documentary, entitled Everything Accelerates, in 2016, where he questioned with his class the dizzying acceleration of our world.

The experience is simple, it invites everyone to record each day in a table the time spent in front of the telephone, television, console, etc. with the help of a stopwatch provided to them. The data is compared. The results vary greatly from one child to another, from ninety minutes a day to… six and a half hours! It is also a way to give them a compass in the face of the national connection average: four hours and forty-five hours per day for 8-12 year olds and six and forty-five hours for 13-18 year olds.

His students, around ten years old, easily lend themselves to the game. Their words are very lucid, not devoid of poetry: "It's as if an invisible thread came to cling to your brain so that you stay glued to your screen”; “Like moths, attracted by light…”

Parents involved in the project sometimes say they are distraught: “I lost all control,” says one mother. Others say they are relieved to see this issue addressed at school. During the school year, Gilles Vernet invited the singer Aldebert, an observer of everyday life, who comes to hum: “Screens, give us back our parents” – which the children sing joyfully in chorus.

Theme of thought

Scientific studies have shown the effects of screen use on attention span, language, isolation, inability to wait, lists the teacher. It also evokes everything that we do less – or more: going out, riding a scooter, walking, reading, being bored… Clinical psychologist Sabine Duflo calls for legislation, like tobacco and alcohol.

Well beyond the observation, the interest of the documentary is to provide understanding. The teacher approaches the myth of Narcissus by mentioning influencers and social networks, he makes his students review the divisions by calculating their screen time. His goal ? “Show them we can take back control on the screens. » It makes them aware of possible addiction, because, “if these objects open up countless possibilities to us, they wage a war for our attention”.

And to ask the big question: “What can happen in a world where we have fewer words? » Here again, the students’ responses are correct: “It could be a disaster”; “We need language to say what we think, what we feel”; “Language is a superpower. » The theme of thought is placed in the foreground.

At the end of the year, Gilles Vernet takes them to a disconnected green class for ten days in order to reconnect with reality... and to show the strength of the bond. In addition to its educational virtues, this film, where we are familiar with happiness, shows children, at the dawn of middle school, of great lucidity and gifted with critical thinking, capable of becoming free spirits, once they are guided. A message of hope.