Screening from harm: Brussels to promote offline parent-child interactions

Screening from harm: Brussels to promote offline parent-child interactions
Credit: Tim Douglas / Pexels

The Wallonia-Brussels Federation has launched an innovative new campaign aimed at increasing the public's awareness of the potentially harmful impact of screens on family relationships, Belga News Agency has reported.

The "Yapaka" campaign — whose slogan is "Let's not let screens make screens" ("Ne laissons pas les écrans faire écran") — was initiated on Monday, and intends to emphasise "the pleasure of moments shared" between family members "without the distance that individual screens can create".

"To grow up, a child needs the sustained attention of his parent, his teacher, the adult who takes care of him and also adjusted interactions that take into account what he is experiencing, his emotions," Yapaka stated in a press release. "A child needs to exist in a relational continuity preserved from technological intrusions."

The campaign will feature thirty-second advertising spots, broadcast on major Belgian television networks, depicting everyday situations in which adults and children benefit from real-world (screen-free) interactions. Posters will also be installed in public places, which similarly portray positive offline connections between parents and their children.

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In addition, the initiative will offer materials and other technical support to professionals who work with children, and will provide age-specific guidelines for parents struggling to manage their children's screen time.

Yapaka claims that the initiative is necessary given that so many of our daily in-person interactions are impacted by "technoference", which involves "multiple interferences coming from the digital world, these notifications, these beeps and vibrations that arise and interrupt our interactions with others, our conversations, our threads of thought, our presence".

According to a recent survey, 17.3% of parents report spending more time on their phone than with their children. Another study found that 50% of teens consider themselves addicted to their mobile devices, with 28% complaining that their parents are also addicted to their phones.

Belgians currently spend an average of more than five hours per day watching videos, and more than three hours per day on their smartphones — 30 minutes more than before the Covid-19 pandemic.

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