Op Ed
May 26, 2020
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France is banning cell phones in schools, but should local schools follow suit?

By: Katherine Minkiewicz
August 17, 2018

France just banned the use of cell phones in all of their schools for nursery school aged children to 15-year-olds and while cell phone use is a prickly topic in schools, the new law seems a little bit harsh. However, for local Rohnert Park/Cotati Schools, nixing the use of cell phones once a student enters the classroom may not be a bad idea.

In this day and age, cell phone use is a constant and ever-present part of life. Children as young as 9-years-old tote their pink encased cell phone or iPad with them to school and the sight of a middle schooler slumping in their chair staring at their phone underneath their desk trying to sneak in a few texts or snapchats is common. In higher grades like high school and college, students also often use their phone to snap photos of the day’s notes instead of racing to copy them in notebooks.

According to an October 2017 Common Sense Media report, kids younger than 8-years-old tend to spend around 48 minutes each day glued to the phone. As reported in a 2017 Newsweek article, the American Academy of Pediatrics says obesity, sleep and behavioral problems have all been linked to excessive phone use.

As stated in the article, studies have also shown that making students put away their phone in class “can help reverse some of the negative side effects. A 2015 study by the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics found that 16-year-old students received higher test scores after phone bans took effect.”

A similar 2015 study by the University of Texas and Louisiana State University found that exam scores in a group of classes increased by six percent following the implementation of stricter phone use rules in classrooms.

As reported by Time Magazine, the authors of the study found that the, “Impact of banning phones for these students was equivalent to an additional hour a week in school.”

As for taking photos of lecture notes with your phone, it is thought that writing something out is the equivalent to reading it about seven times, meaning you are more likely to better absorb information when studying.

For these reasons, it might be a good idea to simply ban the use of phones in class yet allow for phone use on school breaks or afterschool when it’s time to catch that carpool or call mom.

In some instances, I’ve heard teachers have their students put their phones in big plastic bins upon entering class and then getting it back for lunchbreaks or for when school is out. 

The private school where I would pick up my neighbors’ kids from when babysitting had a policy that had kids drop their phone off at the front office and then retrieve it as soon as the school day was over — an idea that I think would also be a good option in lieu of France’s stricter policy.

In some respect I can see why France would want to have an all-out ban — kids and teenagers seem to have their face sewn directly to the screen when hanging out with friends, eating, studying and even when crossing the street, a sight that is often disturbing. Wouldn’t they rather interact with the actual world around them instead of a meaningless tiny screen?

When I was a kid — here we go, time to age myself, break time at school was spent playing “don’t touch the tanbark, it’s lava,” jumping from play structure to slides to see-saws or pretending that my friends and I were Power Puff girls. Studying was spent in the library and on dated PC’s instead of finding all of the answers on phones and eating was actually dedicated to focusing on what was on the plate and fork, (granted this view may be a bit hypocritical as now I swipe through news stories when eating breakfast).

Yet, it wasn’t until the 6th-grade that I was given my first ever cell-phone, a silver Verizon flip-phone that really only functioned as a phone and nothing else and was merely a way for me to communicate with my parents when going out with friends or on school field trips.

I’m glad my parents didn’t give me a phone when I was younger than say 12, granted there weren’t that many options back then and no iPhone, but I think schools and parents should take a similar approach. 

Phones can be used by middle school aged kids and up as a way to keep in contact with their parents, but they don’t need it while they are in class or when they’re younger, let them have time to be kids and use their imagination, but still give them the safety and security option of being able to use a phone after class.