France Soon To Feature A Total Ban Of Cell Phones In Schools

Officials in France have pushed for a complete ban on students using cell phones in educational facilities.

Notice that this isn’t the first ban of phones in French educational spaces. For about a year now, they’ve just been banned specifically in classrooms. Students however are currently able to get onto their devices during breaks such as downtime between classes or lunch. The new law would change those rules, featuring a total ban on mobile phones.

As you would expect, it’s a controversial topic, as there are very vocal people standing on both sides of the argument. One of the pro-ban figures is Jean-Michel Blanquer, the current French education minister. During a conference, he stated “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.” He continues, firmly saying “Are we going to ban mobile phones from schools? The answer is yes.”

Current French Education Minister speaking at the Elysee Palace of Paris. Moment captured by Ludovic Marin/AFP.

Surveys show that about 93% of adolescents (12 to 17-year-olds) own a personal phone. According to a Paris principal/head of a teaching union, Philippe Tournier, up to 40% of student punishments are somehow related to cell phone usage/activity. Tournier believes that it’s a tricky situation to suppress the handling of cell phones without specifically doing things such as search a student’s bag or belongings.

Of course, there are also those who resist the total ban. Standout examples include the previous education minister of France, Luc Chatel. Back in 2011, while still in power, Chatel spoke out to senators, mentioning “The use of mobiles has entered modern daily habits. We cannot ignore the need to communicate, notably between children and their parents, who are themselves in demand, naturally outside class hours.”

A vast majority of students/young adults are avid cell phone users. Image courtesy of Getty Images.

Another group that has expressed their disdain/scepticism of a blanket ban is Peep, which is one of France’s biggest parent associations. As claimed by its head Gerard Pommier “We don’t think it’s possible at the moment… One must live with the times. It would be more intelligent to pose rules and discuss their meaning with pupils.”

However, Jean-Michel Blanquer has more reasons behind the ban. To the education minister, he feels that the issue of cell phone/tablet usage is an issue of public health. “It’s important that children under the age of seven are not in front of these screens.” He continued with more reasoning, he sees the ban as a way to help cut down the epidemic of cyberbullying. His ban would apply to children up to the age of 15, and current phone rules would continue to apply to students in secondary school.

It’s currently unknown how the ban would really work, Blanquer previously mentioned that schools would have to accommodate, and provide lockers for students to stow away their technology during school hours. “We are currently still working on this and it could work in various ways” he stated. The education minister proposed that if French officials and politicians were able to store their phones away during council meetings, then it surely “was possible for any human group, including a class” to follow suit.

An obvious downside would be the lack of communication during a state of emergency. Ranging from a simple facility power-outage, to a building fire or an active shooter/intruder, communication would be key for all in the situation. France as a nation has been hit rather hard by extremist and other terrorists, and even though attacks usually don’t happen at schools, there always is the chance that a tragedy may occur.

A memorial in Paris dedicated to victims of the series of terrorist attacks in 2015. France as a nation has been target to frequent attacks by extremists. Scene captured by Joel Saget of AFP.

Recently Elected President Emmanuel Macron has put emphasis on his plans to ban personal phones in schools back in May, before he assumed his position. Confirmation from the education minister states that the ban will begin in September of 2018.
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