France has banned the use of smartphones and smart devices in schools starting from the new school term in September. All internet connected devices will have to be left at home or be turned off when on the school grounds according to a new ban that will apply to school children aged between 3 and 15 years.
The law was passed on Monday, but each individual high school can choose to adopt the ban or not. "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 Blanquer on French news channel BFMTV.
President's election promise becomes reality
French President Emmanuel Macron campaigned on the promise to introduce the ban and it was passed by his La République en Marche party 62 votes to one. Some politicians decided to abstain from the vote, declaring that the new law would have little effect in schools.
"This isn't a 21st century law in our eyes, but a law from the era of news channels and binary debate," said Alexis Corbière, a deputy from the left-wing Unbowed France party and a former teacher. "In reality, the ban has already been made," he added, referring to a 2010 law. "I don't know a single teacher in this country that allows the use of phones in class."
Many see the law as little more than a publicity stunt given that in 2010 legislation passed that banned the use of smartphones "during all teaching activity." Students with disabilities are exempt from the new ban.
Dependence on devices reaches horrifying level
Screen addiction has a new name, "nomophobia," or "NO MObile PHOne phoBIA", a term being applied to people who fear not being able to access their smartphone or device. A recent survey in the UK reported that 66% of respondents admitted to having some form of nomophobia.
Of those, 41% claimed to have more than one device in order to feel connected. Our dependence on smartphones is proving to be troublesome for many.
One recent study from Korea showed teenagers who were being treated for smartphone or device addiction had higher levels of a neurotransmitter that slows down neurons than their non-addicted peers.
Children with the particular neurotransmitter were more easily distracted with shorter attention spans. Another study by the London School of Economics and Political Science demonstrated that banning smartphones in the classroom had a direct and positive effect on test scores.
French telecoms regulator ARCEP claims that over 90% of French children between the ages of 12 and 17 had mobile phones in 2016, up from 72% in 2005.