France/Une commune bans cell phones from public spaces

Published on 07/02/2024 | La rédaction


The town of Seine-Port, south of Paris, has just voted an unprecedented charter to limit the use of smartphones on its streets.

Tired of seeing people glued to their smartphones? Well, we're off to Seine-Port, in the Seine-et-Marne region. This small town of 1,800 inhabitants voted on Saturday to restrict the use of cell phones in public spaces.

A first in France. The municipal charter, approved by 54% of residents, prohibits the use of cell phones in town, while walking in the street or in parks, in shops and around schools. What is the aim of this municipal initiative? To protect young people from screen addiction and recreate social ties.

"We are facing a potential educational and health catastrophe for children.

"We are facing a potential educational and health catastrophe for children", warned Prime Minister Gabriel Attal on January 30. His words echoed those of President Emmanuel Macron, who a few days earlier had announced his desire to regain "control of our screens", to limit the negative effects on the development and well-being of the youngest children. For his part, Vincent Paul-Petit, the mayor (LR) of Seine-Port, who is preparing to issue a decree to this effect, has not waited for the expert committee's conclusions before taking action.

Incentives rather than fines

"10-14 year-olds spend an average of eight and a half hours a day on a screen, which is absolutely staggering - that's more than they sleep!" he laments. "It's a truly widespread addiction that we have to deal with. I just want to help parents," the elected representative justified on France Télévisions the day after the vote, pointing out that the law did not allow for sanctions in the event of non-compliance. Whatever the case, the mayor says he "has confidence in the good will of his constituents", even if the referendum only mobilized 20% of the population and the result is not a happy one.

"The average 10-14 year-old spends eight and a half hours a day on a screen, which is absolutely staggering - that's more than they sleep in!"

So, with the help of stickers and posters, the town council intends to encourage people to leave their cell phones in their pockets. In return, the Commune has undertaken to create a sports area and a film club for children and teenagers. It will also offer a "nine-key phone" to future secondary school students whose parents undertake not to buy them a smartphone before they start high school.

At home too

So much for the public space, what about the home? The charter devised by Vincent Paul-Petit in October, at a conference devoted to the risks of screens for the very young, also invites parents to ban all screens (television, computer, games console, etc.) in the morning, at the dinner table, in the evening before going to bed and in the bedroom.

These recommendations are close to those of most experts. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that children under the age of two should not be exposed to screens, and that between the ages of two and five, screen time should be limited to one hour a day. In France, the Haut Conseil de la Santé Publique, a leading authority on the subject, considers that "before the age of three, screens should be avoided unless the conditions for parental interaction are met".


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