This is a tricky one from the get-go, but bear with me: France is set to bar students aged six to 15 from using phones in schools, from the start of the next school year in September 2018. And while they may not know it just yet, it’s probably one of the best favors their government can extend to them.
The Guardian noted that there could be some issues with actually implementing the ban, like storing phones and returning them to their owners safely, owing to the lack of space for lockers. And in any case, some schools already have rules against children using phones during classes.
But the ban could have a larger effect: reducing children’s dependence on their devices, and possibly curbing their addiction to screens.
I’ve written before about my troublesdealing with screen addiction, a condition that’s developed to some degree in spite of my having grown up without a phone in my pocket during my years at school. While it isn’t entirely crippling like some substance addictions, I wouldn’t wish it on the worst of my internet enemies.
I shudder to think of how bad my addiction might be if I had a phone on me at all times even as a wee lad.
The thing with phones these days is that it’s awfully easy to develop your own addictive behavior with it – there’s an app for passively consuming every sort of content, whether that’s video shorts, game streams, or just brief snippets of your friends’ lives.
It takes very little to fall into that kind of trap, and younger users may be even more susceptible to forming habits. In his book Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids, addiction expert Dr. Nicholas Kardaras discusses how children’s brains are easily habituated into addictive content, including games that are designed to raise your adrenaline and dopamine levels.
That’s because the frontal cortex – the part of the brain that controls decision making and impluse control – isn’t fully developed until your early 20s, and so it’s all too easy for children to slip into a spiral of constant phone usage and eventually fall prey to screen addiction.
We’re almost certainly going to be more connected and reliant on our mobile devices in the future than we are now, but that sort of behavior tends to push us towards online connections and interactions on social networks, or what Dr. Karadas calls ‘the illusion of connection,’ and away from face-to-face communication with the people around us.
By banning the use of phones in schools, France could see its children spend several hours a day away from their mobile devices, engaging with each other and in activities that don’t require them to be glued to screens in their hands.
I’m all for new ways to keep people from getting addicted to using their gadgets, so I’m keen to see the effects of France’s decision on its youth in the coming years. Hopefully, they’ll be healthier and happier for it, and other countries will follow suit.
Are you for or against banning phones in schools? Drop in your two cents in the comments.