Far from the climate of tension that reigned this week in the Senate around the pension reform, the National Assembly adopted two bills unanimously, on March 6 and 7, and another almost unanimously on March 2. (82 votes against 2). Federating, even consensual, these texts all focused on “online child protection”, according to the now established expression.
Tuesday, March 7 was adopted in first reading the bill of the deputy Renaissance Caroline Janvier on the prevention of overexposure of young children to screens. The day before, it was the text of Bruno Studer (also from the ranks of the majority) aimed at empowering parents who publish images of their children on the Internet. And a few days earlier, on March 2, the Assembly approved the principle of a “numerical majority” at 15 years, on a proposal from the deputy Laurent Marcangeli (president of the Horizons group).
The subject, which worries many parents, continues to appear on the government and parliamentary agenda. While a Senate inquiry committee is examining the case of TikTok, this particularly addictive Chinese social network, the government is currently testing an age verification solution to block minors’ access to pornographic sites and is launching a campaign to popularize the site jeprotegemonenfant.gouv.fr, which offers “digital parenting” advice.
A stone in the building
Physical inactivity, cyberbullying, attention and sleep disorders… Faced with the scale of the risks, wouldn’t drafting a single piece of legislation be more ambitious than the multiplication of “small laws” of a few articles and very targeted?
“Presenting a single, more substantial text would generate amendments by the hundreds, and we would risk losing sight of the objective”, replies to La Croix the deputy Bruno Studer, already author of laws on parental control and child influencers. “My text is only a stone brought to a much larger building”, concedes for his part Laurent Marcangeli. The MP for Corse-du-Sud wants France to be “the first country in the world to have a truly global ecosystem for online child protection”.
The associations concerned display a certain circumspection. “There is a risk that the overabundance will dilute the message,” warns Axelle Desaint, director of the European Commission’s “Internet Without Fear” programme. Faced with “extremely established” uses, she fears that the rules enacted will never be applied, as has been the case for years with the banning of social networks for those under 13 or pornography for those under 18 years old. “It gives the impression to young people that the limits we set on the Internet are virtual, and that adults are not able to protect them. »
Protect children, empower adults
“We are constantly moralizing children about their digital practices, but the advice we give them, a lot of adults are unable to apply it to themselves! “, annoys Thomas Rohmer, founder of the Observatory of parenting and digital education (Open). According to him, among these three bills, only that of Bruno Studer is not oriented towards “protection of children” but towards “responsibility of adults”.
The psychiatrist Serge Tisseron goes so far as to mention a risk of “legislative one-upmanship” which would mask the problems of digital technology by focusing attention on children. For the author of 3-6-9-12, taming screens and growing up (Érès, reed. 2017), we must abandon the fantasy that children are the most threatened with enlistment on social networks. “Trump voters were not minors. With the omnipresent manipulative algorithms on the Net, we must all learn the good uses of digital. »
“Laws are good, but let’s not stop there! We must discuss all these subjects, ”wishes Jean Cattan, the secretary general of the National Digital Council. One idea among others: develop a social network in class, and build moderation rules. To encourage students to question which behaviors are “acceptable” online, and which are not.