Quebec Liberals want more than a definition of screen addiction
Nolan Young, 3, front, looks at a smart phone while his brother Jameson, right, 4, looks at a smart tablet at their home in Boston, on Jan. 27, 2014. (Steven Senne / AP)
QUEBEC -- The Liberal opposition is urging the province to go further than simply defining cyber addiction if the government really wants to answer parents' questions in Quebec.
The Liberal's health spokesperson, André Fortin, is impatient to see what will emerge from the very first government forum on the use of screens and the health of young people. The event will be held Monday, in a hotel in Quebec, and will bring together several experts.
A second day of consultations is scheduled for March 20 with community groups. This should eventually lead to an action plan.
In an interview with The Canadian Press Sunday, Fortin asked the Minister for Health and Social Services, Lionel Carmant, to find concrete ways to help parents "on their journey."
Carmant previously said Monday's goal was to define cyber addiction.
"It's a daily struggle to limit the screen time for our children," said Fortin, himself a father of two. "To simply say: 'We want to leave the forum with a definition', does not help parents in their daily life to know when a child has been exposed to too much screen time, what type of content is most appropriate and what are the best ways to limit the use of screens."
The official opposition wishes that. following the forum, parents clearly understand the harmful effects of addiction to screens, as well as e-sports' impact on health.
"The theory will be presented to us," continued Fortin, "but what we want, beyond that, is to know how a parent can help his child, and can the programs that are put in place by the CAQ government have a positive effect.
"We have serious doubts about the positive impact of an 'e-sports' program," he added, accusing the education ministry of having made a 'false start' in deploying this type of program across Quebec.
The Liberals are asking for a moratorium while e-sports health impacts are assessed. They argue that unlike sports study and arts study programs, e-sports can be addictive for young people.
"We have no evidence that the supervision of these programs is appropriate," added Fortin. "The forum will allow us to know if we should continue, stop, take a break, change the modalities of the program. Will the Minister of Education hear everything that has been said? I think it is there, the real question."
Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge has always refused a moratorium, arguing that e-sports programs are balanced, since young people, after playing video games, must do physical education.
"If the experts say to the Minister for Health: 'We must abolish programs like these,' he cannot sit on his hands. He must act, he must relay this information to the Minister of Education, and at that time, it would become completely irresponsible to continue with e-sports programs," said Fortin.
The Liberals - who will participate in the forum with members from Québec Solidaire and the Parti Québécois - intend to produce a series of recommendations.
On the other hand, they reiterate that a parliamentary commission would have been preferable because the work would have been disseminated and accessible to "all Quebecers."
"The forum is not the mode we wanted," said Fortin.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 9, 2020.