Mobiles out of French schools


THE sight of hundreds of children simultaneously glued to their phones at school is a thing of the past in France. As the school year begins, pupils in France have been banned from using their mobile phones during school hours after a new law was passed prohibiting their use.

Students in both primary and middle schools up to the age of 15 will now have to leave their phones at home. The only exceptions are for disabled children, in case of an emergency or if they are needed for educational use. Other than that, mobiles in French schools are banished, as are tablets and smart watches.

The new rule, a campaign pledge of President Emmanuel Macron, comes with many advantages. It will reduce distraction in the classroom and encourage children to be more physically active during recess. It will end the significant disruptions in class whether it is ring tones, vibrations, pupils texting each other or just browsing the web while the teacher is not looking.

Without mobiles, children will return to doing the ordinary things like chatting and becoming more involved in games and break-time clubs and activities. The ban will also combat bullying and limit the spread of violent and pornographic content among children. And if the worry is children breaking their phones, smashing them or dropping them in water it’s not a bad idea to leave them at home for safety’s sake.

There are some downsides to this new law. One could be that less mobile screen time at school means more of it at home to the detriment of doing homework or sitting down more with their parents and siblings. Some parents also say they should be allowed to stay in touch with their children. There was the idea that instead of banning mobiles, children could bring them to school, put them in lockers or hand them over and collect them at the end of the day. But how will a school give back 600 mobiles every day without sheer pandemonium breaking out every day? The locker option is expensive if there are no lockers, and space is also needed.

There is also the major issue of bullying in schools which has increased since pupils have had access to mobile phones and social media. But given that much of the online bullying takes place after school hours when pupils will be in possession of their phones, the ban will likely have little impact.

In all, children are much better off without mobiles in schools. Children are becoming too dependent on mobiles, burying their heads in their phones when they could be at least socializing more. School kids need to conduct proper conversations. If they’re all standing around with phones, they talk about what’s on the screen rather than talk to each other. Children interact more when they’re obliged to really speak to each other. Interacting online is very different from face-to-face interactions that children are not used to.

France is not alone. The ban comes as a study suggests that 70 percent of British parents believe a similar move should be implemented in the UK.

France is attempting to detox teenagers addicted to the small screen, who are so attached to it, have to hold it in their hands wherever they go, for they are lost without it. Nearly 90 percent of French 12- to 17-year-olds have a mobile phone, giving children not a moment’s rest.

A smartphone offers children fantastic opportunities to learn, communicate and explore. But like so many other inventions, it’s not always being used the right way. All sitting down staring zombie-like at these pocket-sized devices and not talking is not productive. School is for studying, not looking at Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube or Facebook the whole time.