France Bans Smartphones in Schools – But Will It Actually Help?

September 28, 2018 - 4 minutes read

Keeping smartphones away from students helps them to pay more attention in class and focus on interacting with one another. It’s these reasons why France decided to ban smartphones from students in the first to ninth grades. The country’s education ministry set the rule to start at the beginning of September.

A Message to Society

Some experts think it’ll practically be impossible to enforce the ban. Many teachers disagree with the new law, saying it’ll isolate the students from the Internet-centered world they live in.

But Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer emphasizes the ban’s true intentions, saying, “If we want to prepare children in the 21st century, we must give them the tools of modernity: mastery of math, of general culture, the ability to flourish in social relationships, a capacity to discuss with others, to understand and respect others and then very strong digital skills. It’s a message we send to society: Do not always be on your phones.”

The ban will apply to the entire school campus, meaning students will be allowed to bring their phones to school, but the phone must be in a bag or locker, hidden from sight. The sole exception for smartphone usage is for teachers who assign work involving smartphones.

What About the Rest of the World?

Studies estimate 93% of French children aged 12 to 17 have their own smartphones, and 86% of those smartphones can download and support mobile apps.

In Denmark, lawmakers are working to come up with a similar ban. In Britain, the smartphone policy is up to the discretion of the school administration, and it varies between schools.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio stopped the smartphone ban, and students and parents were ecstatic. Parents in New York City, in particular, were worried about terrorist attacks preventing them from communicating with their children. In other cities in the United States, students have used their smartphones to call 911 during an active shooter situation.

But in France where there have been no such incidents, not many parents objected to the smartphone ban.

A Divisive Decision

Many teachers are concerned about enforcing the ban since the onus falls on them to make sure the phones are out of sight every day. Cécile Dhondt teaches students at College Jean Jaurès middle school. She says, “I just don’t know how the law will be put in place. If I confiscated [the smartphones], my students would not come anymore to class, and that is not the objective.”

David Scellier says the root of the problem is addiction, and the ban isn’t going to help address it. He’s a teacher of French language and literature in Paris. He argues, “Who buys the phones for the children? Who doesn’t give them a framework and set limits on using them? Parents. But everyone blames the school, which is very typical in France: School should be responsible for all the children’s problems.”

Monique Dagnaud works at France’s National Center for Scientific Research as a researcher. She says smartphones create a wall that affects those around you. “It’s a culture of presentism. It creates a rapport with the world that is very immediate, very visual, fun. The culture of the internet is of immediate pleasure,” she says, adding that school is the inverse of the Internet; school is about delayed gratification.

We’ll have to let some time pass to see how the smartphone ban affects students, their parents, teachers, school administrations, and test scores. But for now, let us know what you think about this news in the comments!

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