France has once again has set the standard for protecting children from screens by banning cell phones and tablets at school. Previous actions by the French government have banned TV programs designed for children under three, as well as prohibit advertising of mobile phones directed at children 12 and under.
Screen time affects sleep and quality of life and causes attention problems similar to ADHD.
The French law, which took effect for the 2018/2019 school year, is aimed at protecting children ages 3-15 from the detrimental
“We know today that there is a phenomenon of screen addiction, the phenomenon of bad mobile phone use… Our main role is to protect children and adolescents. It is a fundamental role of education, and this law allows it,” said Education Minister Jean-Michel BlanquerCNN
In US education, the use of personal devices varies from teacher to teacher in my experience as a parent and substitute teacher. Some teachers collect phones in a basket and return at the end of the day. Other teachers embrace personal devices and use them as part of the curriculum. Apparently in France, the former is more common causing many to say the law is unnecessary. A 2010 law already banned the use of personal devices during “teaching activity”.
93% of French teenagers have a smartphone. 1 A very similar statistic exists for the US. 2
Yet given all this concern about devices, a majority of people believe they have a positive effect on our lives, including children and education. A survey conducted in 11 countries by the Pew Research Center found:
Across the 11 countries surveyed, people’s attitudes toward mobile phones tend to be largely positive. In most of the countries, a large majority say mobile phones have been good for them personally, and many also say mobile phones positively impact education and the economy. Mobile phone users also overwhelmingly agree that their phones help them to stay in touch with faraway friends and family and keep them informed of the latest news and information.
At the same time, people’s positive attitudes are paired with concerns about the impact of mobile phones on certain aspects of society – and especially their impact on children. In eight of these countries, a majority of the public says that the increasing use of mobile phones has had a bad impact on children today. And when asked about the potential risks of mobile phone use, majorities in every country say people should be very concerned that mobile phones might expose children to harmful or inappropriate content.Pew Research Center
The French law still allows for teachers to assign use of smartphones as part of lessons and assignments. It also excludes those with disabilities. Personal devices are not allowed to be used at other times like during breaks and recess, yet kids are finding a way to sneak use.
Is a law the most effective way to limit screen time? Would education on the risks be more advantageous in the long run? Will teenagers spend more time on their phones outside of school as a result?
This campaign promise of President Macron to ban cellphones sends a message that we all need to be mindful of our device time. As adults, we must model restraint.
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