Open access peer-reviewed chapter - ONLINE FIRST

From Connection to Disconnection for Teens

By Jocelyn Lachance

Submitted: March 15th 2021Reviewed: June 29th 2021Published: December 14th 2021

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.99140

Downloaded: 34

Abstract

We propose here to reflect both on the role of parents in connecting adolescents and on the desire for disconnection for teens. It appears that while we are inclined to notice teens when they go online, we less often perceive their resistance and their attempt to disconnect. Returning to several examples, we will see that the hypothesis of the existence of these attempts is realistic, and that it is possible to support them in order to help the youngest to better manage their uses.

Keywords

  • connection
  • disconnection
  • smartphone
  • parents
  • ritual

1. Introduction

In a few years, the exceptionality of the situation of an individual who could be reached at any time and at any time was replaced by the normality of instantly hearing the voice or immediately seeing the face of the person. This participates in the transformation of our representations of time and space, which gives rise to new expectations. Expectations that parent formulate more or less clearly to their children. The obligation to remain reachable seems to be asserting itself as a general norm which, having imposed itself on adults, now extends to the youngest. In the case of parents and their children, the rationale for this ongoing connection is not always based on actual and imminent dangers [1]. It is the potential for dangerous events that underpins the indisputable argument for the importance of remaining reachable. It is the contingent nature of the risks that imposes itself on these young people as an argument of authority. By entering this connected world, the younger generations also end up adhering in many cases to this reassuring standard of connection. Many teenagers in ours researches nonetheless firmly believe that their freedom of movement is subject to the obligation to carry their smartphone with them. In this way, a connection “pact” is generally established, concluded under pressure, which implies first and foremost that contact be possible at any time, hence the importance of keeping it within reach, and often of “be attentive to calls and texts sent by parents, at the risk of losing a recently acquired freedom. In this context, if adolescents are growing up in a connected world today, it is also because of the connection the parents are expecting from them. In this chapter, by evoking a few situations reported by teenagers and parents of teenagers during our surveys, we propose to think about the role of the parents in making their child connected, and about the desire of the disconnection of the teens…

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2. The obligation to be connected…

"When I am with friends," says Yann, 16, my parents like me to send them a message to say "I arrived well” or “I'm going to sleep” I feel obligated to answer, but I don't always do it, because sometimes I get drunk. But in real life, I have to answer because afterwards they worry. Afterwards, they won't let me go out anymore”.

This self-imposed standard sometimes seems to cause situations with high anxiety-inducing potential. This is the case for Yann, 17. Knowing that he was geolocated, a dead phone meant for him that he would, once again and in spite of himself, escape his father’s surveillance. A situation that he fears, that he does not want to relive, given the reproaches he has already been subjected to in the past:

Last week, he reports, I ran out of battery. So no more smartphones. He died. My dad didn't know where I was anymore and it made a big deal when I got home when this time I was being honest. I really had more drums. I thought he could locate me with the GPS or some other means, but in fact, no, when I run out of battery it really cuts everything apparently (…) You see, I “screwed up” once and it went badly so I don't want to start over.

The connection “pact” is sometimes respected under the sign of fear [2]. As with Yann, this obligation which binds Leo to his parents encourages him to remain reachable at all times. A silence on his part that can provoke conflicts that he prefers to avoid: “In fact,” he sums up, “I do not think it has ever happened to be unreachable. It’s happened before, but there were times when I really did not hear the cell phone. And when I realized it I called them back to right the wrong. I really do not want to create a hostile climate, so I’m making an effort, once again.”

Of course, not all adolescents experience this need to stay connected with the same intensity. Some even seem to lend themselves to this little game of giving news to their parents with indifference, like Yoan, 18, for whom it is only a trivial formality:

“In general I tell them everything. time what I do, so for me, it's not monitoring, it's more to reassure them than anything else. Afterwards, when I'm at home, they don't watch me”.

Others admit to doing it half-heartedly, and are sometimes tempted to deviate from the rule. But all agree on one point: not answering a call, ignoring a message, not giving a sign of life when it was apparently expected from their parents are always signs of transgression in a world where the norm is to stay connected. A form of mistrust towards parents which introduces a form of negotiation with them, and which transforms the apparent pact of connection, the terms of which have not always been decided by the adolescent, into a real negotiated pact.

This standard of connection also appears in the form of the urgency to respond: “Every time my mother sends me a message,” Yann, 16, tells us, “I have to answer in ten minutes. Like many adolescents, Yann accepts the conditions of the connection pact so as not to frighten his mother or father. In a connected world, young people are revealed anxious to reassure their worried parents, no matter what space they occupy and what time they live. Parents sometimes no longer have to make a request, as teens who have internalized their fears anticipate these times when they must contact them.

Sending a small message is perceived as a micro-signal that most see as a compromise that does not require real sacrifice. Discreet, quick and easy; texting reassures without necessarily disrupting the course of an activity with friends, which some parents will be content with over time:

I said it wasn't necessarily to track them, says Laurent, 48 (father of 14-year-old). It's just that the connection with the phone is that today we have to hear more from them than we had from our parents. So it's a feeling of being closer. The times spent with us may be stronger than with our parents or different but I say yes, I feel like I relate more to my daughter. And it's not necessarily to track her down or ask her questions.

In any case, adds Liliane, 50 (mother of an 18-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy), my son, he is absolutely not asking for this kind of telephone relationship with his mother, on the contrary, if I do not call him every now and then, I think he would not call me at all, and he makes it clear to me. When I call him, he answers yes or no. His texts are minimalist, either yes or no.

The micro-signal then embodies a form of resistance. It is as if the advance of adolescence corresponded to a progressive claim for a right to temporary disconnection. It is precisely the intrusive permanence of the connection, the standard of being reachable, the imperative that is generally imposed on the origins of the acquisition of the smartphone that are then called into question. In other words, the connection pact that takes hold in the first few months or years usually goes through episodes of temporary disconnection. Having obediently responded to her parents’ requests for years, Corinne, 17, admits having deliberately changed her attitude in recent months: “Now, from time to time, I do not answer,” she said. For example, I refuse to answer texts or calls from my mother, things like that! Like last Saturday, my mom called me to find out when I was coming home and I wasn’t answering!”.

These episodes of disconnection, however, are not only signs of a willingness to resist parents. They also testify to a demand to be able to judge, for oneself, the interest of an exchange in real time, on the moment, according to the situation. When Alexi, 15, recounts this evening when he did not pick up despite repeated calls from his father, he insisted on the evidence that he was in good company, in safety, and that his father knew it very well at the deep down:

“I find it a bit normal for them to call me, he explains, but I find that sometimes they do too much and I tell them. During a party a few weeks ago, I refused to let my father call me because he knows the friends I go to very well. Also, there were relatives present so I didn't see fit for him to try to reach me or watch me."

Self-assertion is not only manifested through a form of opposition expressed by a punctual disconnection: it mainly depends on the adolescent’s ability to justify this choice to parents, which is also reflected in the story of Dorian, 17 years old:

I answer them often, he said, but I do answer them later. Because I don't necessarily want to talk to them all evening. The last time was at a party at a friend's house where my parents called me late at night and I wondered why they called me so late (…). At another party where it was still early in the evening that had only just started, I told myself that it was not important because they were friends that I had not seen for a long time.

Knowing how to justify one’s priorities, and how to make one’s arguments heard by one’s parents: episodes of disconnection are not only an opportunity to take action, but also to subsequently engage in a discussion on the subject [3]. In other words, disconnecting leads to discussions about those times they seek to preserve. Because if the voluntary and punctual disconnection is often followed by remonstrances on the part of the parents, it also leads to exchanges, the teenager having to explain why he suddenly disappeared from parental radars. However, because the decision to temporarily disconnect makes sense to him, the young person is generally ready to argue when he faces his parents. On the other hand, the episodes of involuntary disconnection rather provoke a need for the teenager to justify himself when he had not wanted the situation. The latter then tries to “repair”, which is not without revealing in some of them a feeling of guilt:

I was in the evening, tells us Hector, 16 years old. I had gone to Strasbourg to have an evening with a friend and when I left, my mother was a little ill and then I was in Strasbourg at my friend's house, we stayed 5 to 10 minutes on the smartphone afterwards, I ran out of battery, she got a little worried but as soon as I managed to charge my smartphone, I saw that she was worried so I sent her a message and called her right after.

Since the norm is to be connected, the episode of disconnection leads to the need for justification. The adolescent who has not been contacted must provide explanations, the validity of which is subsequently judged by the parents:

It must have been an evening when I had no more drums, says Theo, 17 years old and that I had answered them the next morning. They were upset, they were a little stressed, but after when I explained to them, it was okay. I just told them I had more drums and then it was okay. They were stressed out that I wasn't responding to their message and everything, logically, so I respond well. So all of a sudden they asked what was there and everything, but then they were reassured.

The terms of the connection pact are therefore called into question in the tension between the desire to protect the parents from the worry that temporary silence may arouse and the desire to assert one’s capacity to judge the urgency of an exchange. In the background, the perception that teens have of their parents’ feeling of insecurity sometimes dampens the urge they feel to surrender to the present day of their activities by bracketing incoming calls and received messages.

If the link is maintained at a distance in a connected world, a phone call or a text message has little to do with an actual presence of parents with their children. The co-presence effect of remote communication is in no way equal to the experience of live presence. It is hard to imagine a father or mother sitting patiently in a corner of a living room or a cellar watching his teenager feasting with his friends without this causing a certain discomfort or at least limiting them. Still, it’s easy to imagine a teenager texting his parents “to reassure them” while a friend serves him drinks at a party night. The constant gaze on the child when the parents share the same physical space with them imposes the permanent possibility of reaching him when the distance separates them. However, for this possibility to be reassuring in the eyes of parents, it is important to regularly reactivate the suspended link when the children are absent. In other words, sometimes it’s not the information you get from a call or text message that matters. It is the confirmation that the adolescent is reachable that becomes the most meaningful and ultimately reassures.

Is it getting news from your child or receiving a sign of life from him? One thing is certain, however: the exchange of relatively trivial news between parents and children who communicate regularly with each other shows that it is not always the content that counts but the contact that is reassuring [4]. So the simple fact of taking the time to phone or text can even play this function of comforting parents. Because the maintenance of the link is checked again. It is always possible. It is effective:

When I'm not at home, admits Estelle, 15, I call them every evening or send a message to reassure them. So I basically tell them what I did that day. Anyway, I know that if I don't I would have some complaints after like "we haven't heard from we told you to call" and I'm not sure I'll be able to leave next time. So every night I call or send a message. Afterwards, it's a bit normal for them to worry but afterwards when I'm at a friend's house, her parents are at her place so things aren't going to happen to me, it's not like I'm going out in town on my own one evening I mean there is no reason I think. But hey they want to know how I'm doing and in return I have the right to go to my friends so it's okay for me.

Since the feeling of being reassured is nourished by the very fact of keeping the bond alive despite the distance, the sometimes pressing request from parents to “wave” is justified, even when their teenagers are not in particularly difficult situations. Risk. It is in this context that many parents do not just text or call their children to make a decision they think is important. Several prefer to go there, in the presence, when it comes to obtaining reliable information about their children, as Estelle once again evokes:

"I was able to go to my friend's house the following day," says - she, and on the spot she offered me to sleep at her place so I asked my father by SMS and he didn't want to. My mother had to come and pick me up in the evening, but when she got there she saw that it was really cool and that her parents were nice ".

The need to reactivate the link has also disrupted the school time formerly devoted entirely to those present in the college or high school. In fact, few teens go without texts, or even calls, during the day, even when they are in class. Admittedly, as mentioned by Patrick, 14, this communication most often fulfills an organizational function: “During recess, he mentions, they ask me at what time I finish, whether to come and get me. During class, they do not send me a message. “Ditto for the young Marion, 17, who occasionally receives messages and calls when she is in high school: “from time to time, she said, between noon and two when they need information”, a situation that Emilie, 16, also experiences:

I answer my mother, she admits, well it depends, sometimes she calls me but I tell her stop calling me because here I am in class so either I do not answer because I am in class or so you will have to come and get me during the day. And if not, she sends me messages. And a lot of times it's for stuff yeah there I go do you want me to take you? It doesn't matter if you answer if you are in class or if you are not.

Just like Ellie, 16, who admits that this type of exchange is frequent with her mother: “With my mother,” she confirms, “we often send each other messages or even call each other during the hour. Midday. Otherwise, between lessons, at the 10 hour break ”.

But to this practical dimension seems to be added most often the phatic function of making contact according to several teenagers who, like Eric, 15, are telephoned: “for everything and nothing”. Thus, in the opinion of Pierrette, 14, it is the need for reassurance that motivates her parents who have already contacted her on several occasions while she was at school, with her teachers and her parents. Classmates: “Well at noon,” she said, “it happened several times, they contacted me. They checked that everything was fine”. The relevance of these exchanges during the day is then questioned by young people who, once again, resist the temptation to respond, defeating attempts at contact on the part of their parents:

“It depends,” says us. Eric, 15 years old. I don't always answer. If it is important or not because sometimes frankly (…). She contacts me for anything, something about information that she could very well tell me in the evening. In fact, if it's urgent, yes, I find it normal to send me a message but if not, frankly, it is of no interest".

However, some teens do not wait for their parents to call or text them when they are in school. Because they have already gotten into the habit of spending part of their break time communicating with them: “It’s me,” says Ketty, 15, from time to time, who sends them a message. It’s often noon to tell them that everything is fine, if I got any notes or whatever. It’s to keep them informed”.

Moreover, whether the origin of the exchange is attributable to a request from the parents or caused by an initiative of the child, whether the relevance of the telephone or text messages is or is not validated by the teenagers, It is clear that break times are no longer fully experienced at school in the same way in a connected world. These interstitial times, punctuating school days, are for some teenagers more and more often devoted, in part at least, to exchanges with their father and mother, as Corrine, 17, recounts:

They text me sometimes during class, she said, but they don't know I'm in class, well, they text me but they don't know if I'm in class and I answer in class or if I am on a break or between two lessons. But yes they send me messages because, in any case, they say to themselves that I will answer when I have a break.

To resolve the tension between the parents ‘desire to keep the bond alive through regular contact and the teenagers’ desire to preserve time spent away from parental gaze, the micro-signal that is texting is again revealed as a solution that satisfies parents and children. Parents then obtain confirmation that the link can be reactivated, that their children are still within the security perimeter of the connection, while the latter fulfill their part of the “pact” by reassuring their parents, without ever questioning the progress. Activities to which they lend themselves. But the use of the micro-signal is only a temporary resolution of this tension. Because over time, and therefore the transformation of the expectations of parents who gain confidence or who are more suspicious of their growing children, the connection pact is broken or renegotiated, at the very moment when teenagers wanting to signify their independence take the path of occasional disconnection to assert themselves.

The desire for disconnection, partial and temporary, emerges in filigree even among young children, beyond the apparent desire for hyperconnection that would characterize the relationship of the youngest to ICTs. A desire which, as we will see, sometimes turns into an attempt to disconnect, even into concrete experiences of disconnection, which is hardly surprising: the first individuals to be interested in the disconnection of ICTs in their lives were, there are already more than ten years, those who had already experienced hyperconnection, that is to say discomforts felt subjectively and which they attributed to the fact of being connected “permanently” [5]. The disconnection attempts first appeared in the form of desire, of attempt, then in the establishment of a temporary and partial disconnection strategy, a way of regaining the feeling of mastering the use of tools which, previously, precipitated their discomfort. The impression of being subject to the schedules of others and of being literally invaded by requests from outside. However, these attempts at partial and temporary disconnection among the youngest often manifest themselves in a subtle way. And some adolescents even consider that their own parents do not notice these efforts they express, these attempts to resist the pull of the permanent connection:

I know, Jennifer, 15, confides to us that my parents are right and that I spend too much time on it, sometimes I make a good resolution I tell myself that I will go less, I go basketball or cycling and I answer my messages an hour later but I have the impression that the hour when I don't have my smartphone lasts a really long time and I'm happy to finally see who spoke to me when I get home. And when I make an effort like that, it doesn't last long but my parents don't encourage me, they say that nothing has changed because as soon as I come home I run into it. So they don’t see that I’m using a little less.

The desire to disconnect, even concrete attempts to partially and temporarily distance ICTs, seems to exist. But their visibility is sometimes blurred, the actions of disconnection not always being perceived beyond these numerous moments, when adults see, again and again, adolescents in front of screens. This invisibility of a sometimes manifest desire to disconnect has consequences, because it is the very possibility of supporting these young people in a world less and less connected that adults will then question. Yet, like their elders, the younger generations seem to have an ambivalent relationship to technology. Fascination does not always gain the upper hand, as the limits of ICTs have often been experienced in adolescence. Thus, Fanny, 20, sums up this relationship fairly well with technologies that have their advantages and also have limits: “I am quite reluctant,” she says, “with regard to the very strong evolution that there has been compared to all this technology, I’m afraid it will break human links. It has its uses but I think you have to know how to detach yourself from it “. Partial and temporary disconnection from ICTs is therefore not a utopia. She was born among young people who had known the “normality” of the connected world. Among a generation of which some members dream of moments of respite from an early age. And if this desire for disconnection embodied silently through punctual attempts at disconnection is not always noticeable, it is precisely because this desire and these attempts arise at the very moment when the hyperconnection is felt its effects on a generation. a young person whose members are undoubtedly more and more numerous to feel the discomforts which are attributable to him. Thus, attempts to disconnect arise in the tumult caused by this norm of being permanently connected, a norm which is more and more obvious in part because, henceforth, it is within families that it has become commonplace and reinforced.

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3. …to the right to experience voluntary disconnection

We could define experiences of temporary and partial disconnection as experiencing times and spaces stripped of the presence of information and communication technologies and all screens. Provisional in the sense that they are parentheses in a context where the norm of being connected is generally imposed. Partial because limited, that is to say that requests from the outside are not always perfectly blocked, but simply filtered. These experiences can then take different forms that parents are already experimenting with at home: prohibiting smartphones, children and parents alike, during meal times, refusing to introduce screens in a chosen room, using only one connected device for the whole family during the holidays…

When times and spaces are arranged in order to live such experiences, then we can speak of rituals of disconnection. When they occur with the family, then we speak of family rituals of disconnection. The goal here is not for children and teens to simply realize the benefits of spending time without being connected. But above all to make them understand that it is possible, conceivable, achievable and enjoyable to have such experiences. The standard is then readjusted: it is no longer a question of being permanently connected and reachable. The norm is to know how to pass from these times and these connected spaces to times and spaces of disconnection. It is therefore not enough to dwell on what is experienced in such moments. But to emphasize that everyone can possibly escape, if they wish, from this continuity that is imposed on him or her.

Collective initiatives are already numerous in terms of partial and temporary disconnection. The example of the day without a screen is in this sense representative of the efforts being made to make young people aware of the risks of hyperconnection. However, the experiences of temporary disconnection cannot wait until a certain age is reached and one can doubt the effectiveness in the duration of the annual ritual of this very laudable initiative. Temporary and one-off disconnection should no longer be presented to younger generations as an exceptional time in the continuity of a society which most often abandons individuals to the temptation to constantly reconnect. Of course, the right to disconnect at work also testifies to this generalized attention to the problem of hyperconnection and the importance of providing solutions, of supporting individuals in their quest for space and time for respite. But the battle is hardly won because the disconnection in these cases never appears to be obvious to those who lend themselves to the game of the day without a screen or who are imposed disconnection times which in their eyes contravene their way of managing their working time. The disconnection experience must be put to the service of the individual, who can then put it to good use.

The irruption of ICTs in everyday life has shaken up individual existence and many people have been swept away by these cultural and social transformations, which have imposed a different way of living in space and time. We have been victims, and the time has undoubtedly come to help the youngest to once again become actors of this culture in a connected world. Knowing how to arrange times and spaces for disconnection does not mean renouncing the advantages provided by information and communication technologies. Rather, it is to show the youngest that the choice is possible to give up, to delay, to isolate oneself, to cut oneself momentarily in order to breathe and find oneself. So few will be those who will say that there is little benefit in temporarily disconnecting from ICTs. Engage in sports, devote yourself to creation, to observing the world; give back to the present its primacy over the countless possibilities offered by connection, dreaming and, also, being bored. Relearn how to waste time, and understand all that it can bring in. However, there is hardly a magic formula to teach this possibility of disconnection in their life. But no doubt some conditions are imposed on us when we want to participate in depth in the advent of a culture of connection under the sign of a more serene relationship, better control, and which respects the need to find ourselves alone with oneself.

3.1 Believe in the disconnection potential of children and adolescents

Some adults refuse to believe that this is possible. The observation for them has been made: because they are surrounded by young people whom they see bending over their screens most often, because they have witnessed violent crises on the part of teenagers who have had their phones taken away. Portable or let themselves be impressed by the Japanese phenomenon of Hikikomoris, the hypothesis of a generation that would grow up with the idea of ​​being able to partially and temporarily disconnect seems absurd to them. In fact, the trend towards hyperconnection is paradoxically not opposed to the desire for disconnection. It is even the opposite phenomenon that we have observed for a long time, the first attempts to distance themselves from technological tools having been observed among senior executives after having experienced great discomfort due to a prolonged and forced connection. So we may think that people, including young people, who have experienced this hyperconnection, will be particularly sensitive to the benefits of a partial and temporary disconnection.

The trend towards hyperconnection is therefore not just a juvenile affair. It does not concern, first and foremost, the younger generations. But rather the adults that we are, who have legitimized, with or without pleasure, this society where the norm to be connected now reigns. Thus children and adolescents grow up in labyrinths of which we have built the walls and marked out the routes. Not believing in the disconnection potential of children and adolescents also means believing that the world we have invented for them is taking hold of nature. Whereas on the contrary we live in a context that we have built. Perhaps it is undoubtedly difficult to curb the momentum taken by the development of information and communication technologies. It is undoubtedly complicated, at the individual level, to prevent the great leaders of social networks and telecommunications from further expanding. But it is undoubtedly possible to transform our relationship with this connected world, on a more human scale, ours, that of our families, those around us, in company and for the good of our loved ones.

But to establish times of disconnection as new evidence in the minds of the youngest, it must be understood that the desire for disconnection does indeed exist among them. And that some have even already established in their life these moments of rest, which have become necessary:

Interviewer: Do you disconnect from your iPhone when you want to be alone?

Florian, 18 years old: Ah, yes. It's rare, but it happens to me.

When does this happen to you?

When I need to be alone. When I want to clear my head, I sometimes talk to no one, yes. Because when I get messages I say to myself "yes that's good, two minutes" and I respond later.

And to be alone in these cases, what exactly do you do?

When I really want to be alone and isolate it I run a playlist for example, I put my iPhone on silent and I turn it over so I can't see what's going on.

To allow these good intentions to take the form of good habits, it is undoubtedly necessary to act with children from an early age. Allow them to grow up in contexts where episodes of disconnection are as “normal” as evenings spent watching series and those long drives in the car with their eyes riveted on the screen of a smartphone or tablet.

3.2 Question your own digital practices

It goes without saying that adhering to rituals of disconnection implies that its participants share their meaning, because the interpretation is often a problem between family members [6]. It is not enough to prohibit the use of screens for children of such and such ages, but to arrange times when the use of ICTs is prohibited for everyone, children and parents. If we make a clear distinction between, on the one hand, children with a limited connection, and, on the other hand, adults who are constantly connecting, we risk to imply in the representations of the youngest that hyperconnection is indeed a marker of becoming an adult. While it is important to point out that adults are characterized precisely by their ability to manage, to master their use of ICTs by planning disconnection times in their daily lives [7, 8, 9, 10].

A ritual of disconnection can only take such a name on the condition that the practices are shared, that the meaning of this experimentation is common and that it leads to a time for “self” or for “us”. One of the enemies of the effective ritual of family disconnection is the inconsistency or awkwardness with which they may eventually be presented to the child or adolescent. One of the first rules to follow in this area is to be an example to follow as an adult. For a young person to believe in the benefits of episodes of temporary or partial disconnection, it is still necessary to be able to show him that these benefits are also effective in the lives of older people.

In fact, disconnection rituals do not have to be rigidly imposed to ensure their effectiveness. Take the example of a family legitimately defending meal times. No one around the table brings their smartphone. We even agree to keep them at bay or turn them off. But now a family member, father, mother, young adult or teenager is exceptionally waiting on a weekday evening for an important call. Whatever the reason, flexibility is in order as the establishment of the ritual of disconnection should lead the person concerned to ask permission from the family, and therefore to justify the importance of this call. In this sense, it is not a question of contravening the ritual in place, but, in a way, of reaffirming through an exceptional case the norm that is generally imposed. This is also in line with the primary objective of the disconnection rituals: beyond the immediate benefits (respite from possible solicitations, preservation of time spent together, etc.), it underlines the meaning of this pact that binds the members of the family. It is no longer the pact of connection, which binds each of these family members to distant people in space that disrupts the present. It is the pact of temporary disconnection that prevails in the face of the norm of being permanently connected.

In the example just mentioned, it goes without saying that all requests for exemption from a family member require him to question the meaning of his request, and implicitly to question the degree of urgency of this call and to weigh it against the importance he attaches to family time. Discussing it as a family can allow everyone to express their views on the meaning given by the first concerned, and promote discussion around what it means to be present and available to others. In all cases, an exchange in this context with the members of the family will promote both the reflexivity of the individual having to make a request (whether child or parent) and the participation of others in a situation that concerns them. In a nutshell, it’s about reintroducing a little bit of the other into decisions to go on or off which, very often, seem to be established on an individual basis.

To participate in the advent of a new culture, where individuals wishing to protect themselves from temptations in a connected world are supported and encouraged in their quest, it is therefore important first and foremost to question one’s own digital practices as than an adult. And on his ability to arrange for himself and for those close to him times and spaces of disconnection. Because nothing will be more problematic than the imposition of meaningless rules for children and adolescents who may then perceive a great inequality, even a form of injustice, in what will be proposed. This does not mean that perfect symmetry should be observed between parents and children when it comes to the use of ICTs. Prohibitions also find their place and meaning here. But that the rituals of disconnection constitute precisely times and spaces where a provisional equality appears between the members of the family in this area. In the name of the common desire to share quality time, in a space protected from chatty screens and the distraction of the world hanging on the other end of the phone.

3.3 Ritualize the purchase of digital tools

The sooner these rituals of family disconnection are established, the more we can hope for their effectiveness in the medium and long term. However, it all starts with the initiation of children to ICTs, that is to say at the time of their first contact with the connected world and the world of screens, in particular when acquiring a personal communication device, such as a tablet, computer or phone for yourself. For now, it is as if, every year, millions of technological tools are given to children in the same way as ordinary games. But these technologies are not trivial. A lag often appears in this first contact with tools which, behind the appearance of being nothing more than simple objects, make you forget the extent of the skills necessary to use them intelligently. The rights that these tools give to children and adolescents cannot, however, be experienced without a reflection on the duties they imply de facto. Thus, the entry into the connected world, which occurs more and more often through the purchase of a tablet at a young age, is carried out in the continuity of the acquisition of multiple consumer objects. As with 9-year-old Wendy: “It was 2015, we celebrated Christmas, and my godfather told me that if I did not eat well, I would not get my present. So I forced myself, he gave me my gift”.

If entry into the connected world was most often made by accessing a computer in your room and by acquiring a personal mobile phone a few years ago, today it is the tablet. Which becomes the symbol par excellence of a personalization of the relationship with the connected world. A tablet for yourself, or one that you use more than other family members, but the possibilities of which children do not always suspect. We can also wonder if the purchase of a tablet, a computer or a smartphone is always accompanied by advice on use or, at least, an invitation made by the adult to the child about the symbol of having a tool to facilitate a search for information and communication with many potential interlocutors.

In other words, in the absence of a ritual, the link between the child and the digital tool can become stronger in the register of emotion; if adult speech is absent, it thus leaves all the room to the authority of the experiences made by the child from which the adult is excluded. Hence the importance of ritualizing these moments when digital tools are given as other objects are acquired. Ritualize, which involves staging this gift in a way that signals the importance of the moment to the child. And to signify it again periodically. To make him aware, again, of the fact that he is entering a space and a time requiring a responsible attitude. This first, initial contact is fundamental. Because the absence of words or of a gesture giving meaning to the event can favor the exclusion of parents from this relationship that the child develops with technological tools and this, from the origins of the little story that takes place. Will weave between the child and the connected world.

3.4 Clarify the temporal and spatial boundaries

All the rituals take place in specific spaces and times. All disconnection rituals must therefore have a beginning and an end, which should be clarified in the eyes of its participants. Because the agreed time has run out or because a space is vacated, the right to connect legitimately belongs to each member of the family. Sometimes it is spatial delineations that clarify the boundaries of the ritual of disconnection: in this case, a room in the house becomes the sanctuary of silence. No screen or smartphone is tolerated at all times. If a family member comes into this room, they agree to leave their smartphone outside. Here, no computer, no television. No external solicitation comes to test those who find themselves there. But, in other situations, it is time boundaries that set the framework for the ritual. These are events, with a beginning and an end, that are essential: when visiting such and such a person, during a trip by car or an afternoon at the swimming pool, the decision is made. to each give up their smartphone. During meal time, no one is calling or texting around the table, but once their hour is over, you may be able to bring your laptop back to work.

Of course, these collective rituals must not remove the limits imposed on children, for example at night in order to protect their time asleep. In fact, family disconnection rituals should not be confused with the intimate rituals that each family member is free to perform in his or her personal life. These intimate rituals of disconnection are times and spaces stripped of the presence of ICTs and screens at the initiative of the individual who benefits from them. It is therefore a personal gesture, a kind of self-discipline that manifests itself in the intimate ritual of disconnection. While setting limits in terms of the use of ICTs can certainly contribute in the medium term to the establishment of these intimate rituals by young people themselves, collective disconnection rituals also promote their appearance, but in a way “More positive”. It is no longer the constraint that should be lived mainly, but the advantage of a common time that should be praised by everyone.

3.5 Accept the evolution of the connection pact

Adherence to collective disconnection rituals is never permanent, and its evolution is to be considered, especially according to the age of the children. It is undoubtedly preferable to involve more and more, over time, adolescents in the establishment of new rituals. In other words, that they also become the actors clarifying the spatial and temporal boundaries of these. Because it is above all the way in which its participants will be brought to talk about these rituals, to push their boundaries, that makes sense, a way of discussing what is happening there, what we are trying to defend as a family.

The sustainability of disconnection rituals is possible if we consider that the main thing lies in the possibility offered by them to discuss together, as a family, about their meaning. One can imagine that family disconnection rituals persist for a long time in a definite form. But, at the same time, from childhood to adolescence, from adolescence to adulthood, the younger ones may force a renegotiation of the forms taken by these rituals. This should be seen as an opportunity to exchange views, an opportunity for speaking out, and never as unwelcome opposition. However, another concern may arise: since the family disconnection rituals are invitations to bring intimate disconnection rituals into one’s life, the latter will risk coming into conflict with the parents’ insistence on reactivating the bond despite the distance. This is why the effectiveness of family disconnection rituals goes hand in hand with the need, sooner or later, to change the connection pact that binds parents to their children.

Over time, parents will have to revisit the terms of this pact, this contract, which many of them are already doing elsewhere. But, by linking rituals of disconnection and the pact of connection, it is possible to seek the balance between accepting that children separate when physical spaces separate them and preserving quality time when they share together. Time. In other words, revisiting the terms of the Connection Pact does not mean abandoning family disconnection rituals. On the contrary, one can easily imagine parents who refrain from imposing on their young adults to reassure them permanently by calls or texts, but who, in the evening, insist that the telephones be switched off, time to rest. Reunite with family. Accepting the evolution of the connection pact can, however, provide adolescents or young adults with the feeling of an unprecedented but expected freedom, while encouraging them to take things into account: family disconnection rituals are not opposed. Not to this progressive access to the right to personal, partial and temporary disconnection, when activities separate him from his parents. The quantity of small reassuring contacts then gives way, slowly but surely, to the quality of these great moments of family gathering.

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4. Conclusion

Imagine a world in which to have fun, read the newspaper, listen to the radio, watch television; call, write, listen to music or watch movies; subscribe, work, exhibit, play, plan, organize; a world where to escape the daily routine, find old friends, send (digital) postcards, prepare a trip, buy train or plane tickets, book a hotel room, it is increasingly important more often to connect. A world in which to study, translate, correct a text, check your bank accounts, make a transfer, buy gifts, get a book, a record or a piece of furniture; to consult the sales, to have a parcel delivered, to receive coffee capsules, ink for the printer, a tablet or a table at home, it is necessary for us to consult a screen. A world in which to build your CV or expand your professional network, to sleep abroad for free, rent your apartment to tourists, find a taxi, a carpooler or a job; to complete administrative procedures, produce photos, follow the news of sports, cinema or politics; to edit films, create posters, flirt, learn a language or the words of a song, we are drawn to a computer, a tablet, a smartphone. A world in which, in order to interact, exchange, exist, we are forced to return to these technologies that intervene between us and the world. Technologies that mediate our relationships, including those parents have with their children.

This world is the one we bequeath to the younger generations. It is certainly full of promises, but it also reveals new challenges to be taken up in our duty of transmissions. We understand with this chapter that supporting the youngest in our connected societies can never do without questions to be renewed. Where do our concerns come from? Do we provoke new fears in our children and in our own lives when we paradoxically try to reassure ourselves? Do digital traces distract us from the essential? Are we aware of the sometimes unexpected effects of the connected world, which gives us the impression of maintaining the link despite the distance? Do we know how to recognize and respect the desire for disconnection of our children and our adolescents? Of course, it is actually hard to evaluate how strong is this desire of disconnection, and we can also question if this intention to disconnected sometimes from the ICTs takes his meaning only in the relation with their parents: maybe teens try sometimes to also escape from the solicitations produced by their peers? It can be interesting in future researches to explore those dimensions of disconnection among teens, as it can be useful to question how parents can take action in this try to get away from the connected world, sometimes, for a while. Actually in France is there no research who evaluate the role of ritual of disconnection in the day-to-day life of the family with children and teens. So many questions that should accompany this search for “the right distance” that drives parents. Because, in the end, it is not just a question of questioning the digital practices of teens and the actions of parents. But to question what we offer as role models to the youngest in a connected world. In this article, we have insisted on the relationship between parents and their children in the digital age, but it goes without saying that a large research project is opening up here, because it is also the relationships between brothers. and the sisters, with the grandparents and the extended family which will need to be analyzed in more depth.

In any case, we understand that it is important not to dramatize the use of ICTs, but, by wanting to use them in the perspective of prevention and intervention, we also participate, more or less consciously, in a strengthening of this standard to be connected. When we invite children or teenagers to connect to find information, to contact a professional, to produce a prevention film in class, the initiative is laudable, and even necessary, but it does not always take the issue into consideration. Connection that we have discussed in this book. In other words, by legitimately working to renew the relationship of the youngest to screens, we forget that the problems posed by the current context also lie on the side of external solicitation, of this possibility of the permanent link which reassures and fears. It is no longer enough to work with young people to ensure that they develop a better relationship with the screens. It is important to also work with them the possibility of living outside the perimeter of the connection, which does not only mean “doing a screen fast”, but also learning to temporarily and partially disconnect from the perimeter. Reassuring that traces the possession of a smartphone. Because promoting “good uses” of ICTs among younger people, by encouraging them to use them prudently and positively, is also, sometimes and paradoxically, to encourage them to connect, again and again… Keep this in mind. Allows us to avoid the trap of technophilia, just as unproductive as that of technophobia: many answers to our questions are not found in the examination or use of ICTs.

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Jocelyn Lachance (December 14th 2021). From Connection to Disconnection for Teens [Online First], IntechOpen, DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.99140. Available from:

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