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France's Schoolchildren Have Been Banned From Using Mobile Phones

Picture of Jade Cuttle
Updated: 11 June 2018
French schoolkids will be completely banned from using mobile phones anywhere on school grounds from September 2018. The decision has been passed as a ‘detox’ law aimed at technologically obsessed teens, with the intention of reducing disruption and distraction in classes, preventing bullying and improving ‘camaraderie’.

In France, as many as 93% of French students aged between 12 and 17 own a mobile phone. While they have already been forbidden in French classrooms since 2010, they’ll now be completely outlawed from school premises starting from September 2018 under new legislation.

The ‘detox measure’ will apply to all children in French nurseries, primary and high schools until the age of 15, banning phones from breaks, lunch times and between lessons. As lawmakers from Macron’s La République En Marche party said, this means that all children now have ‘a legal right to disconnect’.

French politicians hope that by removing the distraction of mobile phones and reducing the disruption when they go off to class, they can raise both the intellectual and social credentials of these students. This follows on from numerous studies proving that students are prone to loss of concentration via screens and phones.

Education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer described the measures as ‘a law for the 21st century, a law for addressing the digital revolution’. Attuned to the dangers of technological addiction, he argued that ‘being open to technologies of the future doesn’t mean we have to accept all their uses’, with the main concern being to ‘protect children and teenagers’.

Kids using their phones | © AFS USA / Flickr

The benefits of this new law aren’t solely limited to intellectual productivity, they also focus on social skills. ‘These days the children don’t play at break time anymore, they are just all in front of their smartphones’, he said.

In this way, MPs hope that the ban will improve ‘camaraderie’. Instead of spending break-time interacting on social media, children will forge real-life connections, like they used to before the digital age.

The lack of pressure to arrive at school with the latest model should also reduce bullying and the sense of exclusion suffered by certain students.

Controversially, some politicians in Macron’s party even argued that adults should set an example with the ban extending to all school staff as well, forcing them to hand in their phones each morning, but Blanquer brushed this aside.

Phones are everywhere | © Porapak Apichodilok / Pexels

The proposal was part of Emmanuel Macron’s presidential manifesto in May last year. But it’s an idea that’s been in the pipeline since 2011 when Luc Chatel, then-president of Nicolas Sarkozy’s education minister, told senators: ‘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’.

Not everyone is in agreement about the news. Some people believe that children should be allowed to embrace the modern developments of their era.

Nonetheless, given that up to 40% of punishments are mobile-related, according to Philippe Tournier, a Paris headmaster with the SNPDEN-Unsa teaching union as reported in The Telegraph, the general consensus is that this move can only inspire positive effects on academic performance.