Back To School Without Mobile Phones: France Imposes Nationwide Ban

French students returned to school on Monday as a nationwide ban on mobile phones takes effect. The law also bans tablets and smartwatches.

“I think it’s a good thing. It’s a good signal that says ‘school is for studying,’ it’s not about being on your phone. It’s hard with adolescents, you can’t control what they see and that’s one of the things that worries me as a parent,” a mother told Agence France-Presse as she dropped her daughter off at school in Paris.

French President Emmanuel Macron poses for a selfie with a child during a Christmas ceremony for children on December 13, 2017, at the Elysee Presidential palace in Paris. Etienne Laurent/AFP/Getty

The law will kick off in elementary and junior high schools, while it gives high schools the option of enforcing the ban but will not be mandatory.

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer first announced the ban last year as part of a campaign pledge made by President Emmanuel Macron.

“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,” Blanquer said in an interview.

Schools will be in charge of figuring out how and where to keep mobile phones during the day, but government officials recommend that mobile phones be secured in student lockers. The ban, which some critics perceive as a public relations stunt, is meant to stop online bullying and limit the dissemination of pornographic material.

Almost 90 percent of French students aged 12 and 17 have a mobile phone, and Blanquer believes that the ban is “a law for the 21st century.”

“Being open to technologies of the future doesn’t mean we have to accept all their uses,” Michel said in June, according to AFP.

As part of Macron’s education reforms, France has also given school districts the option of having four-day weeks along with smaller class sizes in an effort to minimize truancy and dropouts.  

For years, New York City has also enforced a ban on mobile phones in public schools despite calls by students, parents and public officials for the measure to be lifted.

“We are not going to allow iPods and Blackberrys and cellphones and things that are disruptive in the classroom. Classrooms are for learning. Teachers cannot be expected to look under every kid’s desk at what they’re doing,” New York City’s former mayor Michael Bloomberg said in 2006.

However, new rules were established in 2015 when Bloomberg’s successor, Bill de Blasio, ended the ban due to safety concerns, saying that “parents should be able to call or text their kids.” 

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