France bans smartphone use in schools: implications

Recently, France enacted a law that bans young students, ages 3 to 15, from using smartphones at school. The law was introduced to address phone addiction for children, and to encourage children to be active and interact more with each other, rather than stare at a screen. Although schools can enact the ban in how they deem appropriate, students are still required to turn their phones off or leave them at home during school hours. There are also some exceptions to the rule. Students with disabilities can use technological devices if necessary, and instructors can still use technology for educational purposes.

France’s law is not the first to address the issue of phone addiction. New York City previously banned smartphones in public schools for eight years. However, the law was overturned in 2015 due to parents complaining about the difficulty of contacting their children if necessary during school hours. In addition, multimedia companies like Apple and Google have introduced new initiatives to address the addictive nature of smartphones. Parents can now monitor their child's phone use through Apple’s Family Sharing and Google Play settings.

It seems that with this measure, France does not want personal technology use to overtake children from having a “real” childhood during school hours. It is also laudable that the French government views it as a “public health message”, since according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, screen time and exposure to digital media should be minimal for children. Previous studies have indicated how teens addicted to smartphones show less attentiveness and higher levels of insomnia, impulsiveness, anxiety, and depression. In addition, a 2016 survey by Common Sense Media showed that roughly 50% of teens “felt addicted to their devices” and 72% of teens “felt pressured to respond immediately to texts, notifications and social media messaging.” The ban seems promising, however it will be interesting to see how France balances their smartphone ban with parental needs, and whether schools, cities, or states in the U.S. follow suit.