As our world grows ever closer to the digitally-connected utopia envisaged in fantasy novels, France has taken the bold move to ban the use of all smartphones in schools.
Smartphones allow students to have a world of information at their fingertips. One swipe opens up the possibility to read the latest headlines, catch up with the Facebook group-chat and even throw digital angry birds into precarious 2D structures.
These little blocks of online potential have revolutionised the way students use the Internet. A tricky spelling or an obscure fact are now only ever a few taps away. Collaboration among students is streamlined through instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp, while specialised education apps such as Duolingo, the language app, simplify the learning experience.
There are a lot of educational benefits to using smartphones at school, however there are also a lot of distractions. Can teenagers really be expected to use their phones to research mathematical methods when they could be sharing memes with their classmates in real time?
Not to mention the doors social media open up to bullies. Bullies can now constantly torment their victims on social media – even from another classroom or at home. By banning smartphones, cyber-bullies will have their power stripped during the school day, but it’s unclear how this will tackle cyber-bullying outside of school hours.
France government want to ban phone in school (it's already banned during class) to stop cyber bullying… dude if you think bullying stop after school hours you're not getting the concept right
— BERENiCE 「え、アタシ」 (@BERENiCE_gang) December 10, 2017
The Connexion reported 50 percent of teenagers owned a smartphone in 2015, which has increased from 20 percent in 2011. Not only this but smartphones are becoming more common in primary schools.
This is why French Minister of National Education Jean-Michel Blanquer has confirmed smartphones will be banned in primary and middle schools from September 2018.
Blanquer said children no longer play with each other at break times due to their smartphones, and this is particularly problematic for children under the age of seven, reported The Local.
Child psychologists view children’s play as integral to their social and emotional intelligence. It is through this interaction that children learn people skills, group dynamics and empathy, which will serve them in adult life.
However, if children as young as five are spending their play time on their smartphones rather than connecting with each other, they will miss the opportunity to develop healthy social skills in early life.
— Choice Health Centre (@ChoiceHealthCtr) May 9, 2017
The rule will be in place from September 2018, but it is still unclear how the phone ban will be implemented.
Gerard Pommier, head of Peep – one of the biggest groups representing parents of French schoolchildren – told The Local: “We don’t think it’s possible at the moment. Imagine a secondary 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?”
Blanquer replied to this complaint saying: “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 [school] classes.”