French parents and teachers’ unions are dubious. They say the decision lacks logic and pragmatism. What makes this situation particularly tricky is that children will actually be allowed to bring their phones to school, but not allowed to use them.
Naturally, teachers want to know how the ban will actually be enforced Will we force children to “check in” their phones every morning, or will we leave the phones with them, and simply trust them to “do the right thing”?
Perhaps an idea might be to put the phones into lockers. If so, do schools have enough lockers? And then, who’s checking to see that the phones are actually going into the lockers?
Maybe security guards carefully monitoring students via a network of security cameras? What about the bathrooms?
Then there’s the question of wearable devices. I’m not sure if the French authorities are aware that you can interact with your smart phone using a smart watch, even if it’s safely locked up inside a locker. Should smart watches then be included in the ban? Will there be a daily pat-down for smart watches? That sounds like fun.
Then there are more subtle nuances such as what actually constitutes usage of a cellphone.
If a child pulls out a phone to check the time, or to check a message from a parent, is this tantamount to a violation? Does she deserve detention for this?
It’s not clear how the French authorities will deal with these logistical challenges, but one thing is certainly very clear: the ban comes into effect in September this year, and they currently don’t have a clue.
Of course, schools have very compelling reasons for banning cellphones. They are dealing with really serious issues relating to cellphones that are not just detrimental to the learning and teaching process, but also pose a risk to children’s physical, emotional and mental health - risks that come from spending too much of time slouched in front of a tiny screen.
Let’s face it: this is not a French problem, but a problem of global proportions, affecting every country and every culture.
Teachers everywhere are struggling to get any teaching done because learners are constantly distracted by their ringing, buzzing, chiming pocket devices. Children rudely text each other while the teachers are talking.
Then there are serious issues like pornography and cyberbullying. According to global statistics, children as young as 10 years old are exposed to internet porn, and this is no doubt a cause for alarm.
Ultimately, the question shouldn’t be whether or not cellphones should be banned, but whether banning them will deal with these problems effectively.
Are children going to be more motivated to learn, and are porn and cyberbullying going to go away? Or are we just running away from the real problem?
* Bilal Kathrada is an educational technologist, speaker, author, newspaper columnist and entrepreneur. He is the founder of CompuKids, a start-up that teaches children Computer Science skills.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.