Education officials in France recently banned mobile phones in elementary and middle schools starting next year, in response to what educator minister Jean-Michel Blanquer calls a “public health” issue. Mobile phones and other entertainment media deeply influence the formation of students’ moral, civic, and intellectual character.
“These days the children don’t play at break time anymore, they are all just in front of their smartphones and from an educational point of view that’s a problem,” Blanquer said, according to The Local.
It’s already against the rules for French students to use phones in class, but the new ban will extend the prohibition to break and lunch times, as well.
“We are currently working on this and it could work in various ways,” Blanquer said. “Phones may be needed for teaching purposes or in cases of emergency so mobile phones will have to be locked away.”
“It’s important that children under the age of seven are not in front of these screens,” he said.
Blanquer previously suggested schools could provide drop-boxes for students to store their devices during the school day, though some parents are skeptical schools can enforce the new ban.
“At our cabinet meetings, we drop our phones in lockers before sitting down together. It seems to me that this should be possible for any human group, including classes,” Blanquer told Express magazine earlier this year, according to The Local.
The education minister also added that the ban, promoted by French President Emmanuel Macron during his 2017 campaign, would cut down on cyber-bullying.
Regardless of the potential benefits, parents with the group Peep aren’t convinced education officials can force students to comply with the ban.
“We don’t think it’s possible at the moment,” Peep leader Gerard Pommier told The Local.
“Imagine a (middle) school with 600 pupils. Are they going to put all their phones in a box? How do you store them? And give them back at the end?”
“Many parents feel their attempts to control the home and to keep external influences at bay are nearly futile in the face of new communication and entertainment technologies,” according to the 2012 report.
While the authors acknowledge that “the genie of these new technologies cannot be put back in the bottle,” they add that “the question . . . is how to gain some modicum of control over the family’s use of them . . . this will continue to be an area that calls for new ideas—ideas that many parents would be eager to put to use.” This issue is critically important because these technologies can be very influential on students’ moral, civic, and intellectual character.
The move in France is obviously a top-down way of implementing some measure of control, but educators are finding other ways to convince students to make the responsible choice to turn off their phones.
Instead of banning phones from his classes, he asked students what they’d think of getting participation points for leaving their phones on his desk (turned off) for astronomy class. The students unanimously agreed, and Duncan reports, “we had an exceptionally engaged class.”