France Bans Smartphones In Elementary & Middle Schools – Will It Help?

3 min


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Now that we’re firmly entrenched in the 21st century, there’s no denying that technology has affected every part of our lives. From smartphones to smart refrigerators, ever-advancing tech is everywhere, including the classroom. Even teachers that resisted the urge to go digital, have crossed over and now use computers, smart boards, and tablets with ease. But has education opened a Pandora’s Box that it can’t close?

Earlier this year France enacted a new law banning the presence of smartphones, tablets or smartwatches at their schools for students under the age of 15. The law came in response to a growing number of concerns, namely that children are spending so much time on their phones they’re not focusing on anything else. Supporters of the law also say it would help cut down on online-bullying and cyber-stalking in schools.

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer says this is “a law for the 21st century” that he hopes will have a positive impact on discipline.

“Being open to technologies of the future doesn’t mean we have to accept all their uses,” says Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer. “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.” 

However, not everyone is convinced this law will do much of anything to change children’s ever-decreasing attention spans. Critics of the bill say most teachers already ban smartphones from their classrooms, so this is nothing more than a publicity stunt. Some critics say that forbidding phones from the entire school is only going to cause logistical and safety problems. Without phones, students won’t be able to easily contact their parents after school or to let them know they’re safe during an emergency situation. Other critics express their concern for children who may need them for health-related issues. And some say it may even be dangerous to shield students from the digitally-driven society they will face in the world outside of school.

Supporters, however, point out that banning smartphones from the school will encourage interaction between kids again, both socially and emotionally. Supporters also argue that with the lack of phones entertaining them, it will raise physical activity at recess. This may get kids to actually play more, rather than flip through social media posts, take selfies, Snaphats, or feed their Fortnite addictions.

It does, however, raise a larger question:

Is there such a thing as too much technology?

Sure computers are an invaluable resource. They allow students and teachers to explore topics they never would have been able to reach before, but what effect is all this technology having on children? A recent survey shows that half of all teenagers feel addicted to their smartphone, with 78% of them saying they feel a need to check their phone at least once an hour. Obsessively checking your cell phone has even led to a brand new term: nomophobia, short for “No Mobile Phone Phobia”. It’s the fear of not being able to check your mobile device.

All of this time and attention that children give to their technology may, in fact, be re-wiring their brains. A study completed by Korea University found that children who were addicted to their smartphones had increased levels of one particular neurotransmitter. High levels of that neurotransmitter can cause children to become excitable or anxious, causing them to have problems focusing in class.

While it’s very difficult to actually study and research attention spans in children, any experienced teacher will tell you that it has become increasingly difficult to grab and hold the interest of children for any period of time. With phones offering instant access to every song ever recorded, zillions of apps (educational and otherwise) and more information than you can possibly ever learn, teachers have a lot to compete with.

For many educators, letting students use some forms of technology can be a double-edged sword. Websites like Kahoot allow teachers to ask questions that kids can answer on a mobile device, but then you run the risk of them using those devices to surf the web or check social media. Encouraging online collaborations sounds like a great idea until students use it as a way to cyberbully others.

It will be interesting to see what effect the French smart device ban has on children there. Perhaps it will start to break the cycle of addiction that more students are falling victim to, or maybe it will just make them long for the comfort of their phone screen’s glow even more.

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David Rode

Veteran Legend

I'm currently a Middle School Math Teacher which means I'm also a glutton for punishment. Honestly though, I am keenly aware that Middle School is basically the worst 3 years in the life of a child, so it's my mission to make it suck less. I'm also a musician, a community theater, Dad to two amazing children, and I don't get a lot of sleep.

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