Initially, I mentioned the French government banning mobile phones in the country’s primary, junior and middle schools in passing. But after constant nagging and convincing of how much a big deal it is from my boss, I’ve decided to explore the topic a little further.
So, according to France, students will not be allowed to use their mobile phones at school, effect from September 2018. This means that students can bring their phones to school if need be, but will not be allowed to use them during school hours and by school hours I mean even during break time.
By the way, primary, junior and middle school in France refers to the age range of 6 to 15 years old roughly.
So why is it important?
For starters, we (Zimbabwe) know that the former minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Lazarus Dokora was pushing for students to be allowed to bring smartphones/tablets/laptops to school. In fact, it seems as if it was mandatory for them to have at least one of these gadgets.
So the question is why are other countries opposed to such a move even in this digital age?
France is moving away from what we are moving towards. Is it that they’ve seen/experienced something that proves that the effects of this initiative are more detrimental than beneficial?
It’s also important to note that unlike in Zimbabwe, France is a developed country and things like smartphones and the internet are by now, a part of their lives. In fact, according to The Telegraph, 93% of 12 – 17 year olds own mobile phones. Therefore, in light of this, the ban is indeed a radical move.
Then why is the government doing it?
The French minister of education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, explained how this is affecting the students. I will quote him from The Telegraph:
These days the children don’t play at break time anymore, they are just all in front of their smartphones and from an educational point of view that’s a problem
This is about ensuring the rules and the law are respected. The use of telephones is banned in class. With headmasters, teachers and parents, we must come up with a way of protecting pupils from loss of concentration via screens and phones
The second quote is cemented by the fact that according to one of the school headmasters in Paris, 40% of the punishments (not to mention offenses) that are given to students are mobile – related.
Also, Mr Blanquer (education minister) mentioned the health aspect of it. He spoke on how the ban is also inspired by the desire to not compromise the health of the students. This is quite interesting considering how most recently two of Apple’s major shareholders (controlling about $2.5 billion worth of Apple shares) expressed concerns on how Apple should play a role in addressing child smartphone addiction.
We’ve known for a while now on how tech, especially mobile phones, the internet and social media are major players in causing social anxiety, depression and even suicide. An excerpt from the Hustle revealed that quite recently the World Health Organisation (WHO) classified video game addiction as a mental health condition. Not only should video game addiction be our only concern but even the very thing that we take for granted; device addiction – which is predicted to only get worse even as tech gets smarter and faster.
Added to that, just at the beginning of the week, we wrote on how a Ghanaian professors strongly recommended that WhatsApp be banned in workplaces. However, according to most comments on that article, the idea was considered as rubbish. But once you read the research quoted by the Hustle which states that smartphone addiction causes corporates to lose up to $54 Billion annually in productivity, you might end up thinking otherwise.
Now if smartphones have such an impact on adults, what more of the children in school. And to think that the stage in question (primary and secondary school) is very important in shaping thus determining the future of an individual.
So should we really permit the free use of smartphones in schools by children so that they quickly embrace tech at the expense of all these negatives outlined, or there is a way for us to compromise and still get favourable results?