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Cellphones Are Banned in Schools by the French Gov’t: Is This Right or Wrong?

A pediatrician insists there should be limits on the use of devices by kids — parents must teach self-control

There’s a change for French students as they head back to school this month: Their cellphones are no longer their constant companions during school hours.

Instead, their devices will be waiting for them back at home — or will be tucked away safely in backpacks during instruction time.

A new law in France prohibits students ages three to 15 (yes, three!) from using smartphones on school grounds (with a few exceptions). Lawmakers hope the ban will remove distractions during class and encourage students to play outside as well.

“We’re not seeking to reject technological progress — that would be absurd — but to master it, to make sure man is the master of the machine,” Jean-Michel Blanquer, France’s education minister, told The Wall Street Journal. “It all begins with education.”

“This is not good, all of this cellphone stuff,” Dr. Rosemary Stein, a North Carolina pediatrician, told LifeZette in an interview.

Stein said she’s increasingly frustrated by seeing kids on the phone constantly.

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Even during her day at work, she sees children bumping into walls at her practice because they can’t peel their eyes away long enough even to see where they’re going.

“I sometimes can’t even have a conversation with them. I’ve got to ask nicely if they’ll put the phone down. And I don’t know who is on the phone more, the adult in the room or the child,” Stein added.

Her concerns are precisely why the notice about a cellphone ban for schoolchildren in France caught her eye.

Related: Why Children Should Not Take Cellphones to School

More than 90 percent of kids aged 12 years or older have a mobile phone in France.

In addition to the new rules banning phone use during the school day, phone theft and an obsession with fashion brands were other negatives lawmakers used to justify the attempt to strike a balance in children’s lives, officials said, as the website Today noted.

Bans like the one France is implementing on kids don’t sit 100 percent well with Stein, however. “You’re telling them, ‘OK, there are no cellphones because you can’t control yourself.’ Well, you’re not teaching a child self-control. Whenever something has to go into the hands of the government, I don’t think that’s the right way to approach that for our children.”

She added, “I think the biggest thing in all of this is we, the parents, shouldn’t have to be told by the schools or the government — ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on cellphones. We should be able to exercise self-control and teach our children to exercise the same.”

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The pediatrician believes we should decrease cellphone exposure, as “children can’t think for themselves anymore.”

Everything, she said, has to be instant in today’s youth culture; and there are changes in brain development as a result of all of the activity on devices, which is no small consequence. “The neuron connections are not going to be the same. You’re not forming the same brain as the one that doesn’t live on instant gratification.”

Related: Bill Gates Is Right: Delay Those Cellphones as Long as Possible

Stein suggested an age limit on having a phone along with time limits on phone use — and stressed that parents need to do the same themselves.

“Talk with your kids,” said Stein. “Tell them why — don’t just take the cellphone away. I have friends [other grown-ups] who have only digital friends. One friend doesn’t even know how to talk to people. It’s such a make-believe world. Sometimes we’re so busy, we have a couple of jobs, we’re on the cellphones ourselves. So to take [the phone] away [from kids] and say, ‘You’ve had it’ won’t work. You’ve got to sit down with them — then do the same yourself.”

Related: Setting Kids Up for Success: Make Sure to Do These Four Things

Children’s brains really are changing — and traditional skills are too often falling by the wayside.

There were reports earlier this year that some schools in the United Kingdom are removing traditional analog clocks from the classroom, as students say they can’t understand them.

“The current generation [isn’t] as good at reading the traditional clock face as older generations,” Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary at the Association of School and College Leaders in England, told The (U.K.) Telegraph. “Nearly everything they’ve got is digital, so youngsters are just exposed to time [showing] digitally everywhere.”

See the video below for more information on France’s ban.

Carly Wilson is a freelance writer and photographer from South Dakota.

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