Many schools, perhaps most, ban the use of cell phones for students in class. A large number also forbid them from being brought to school at all. But for years, France has taken it a step farther. In 2010, the country enacted an actual law banning cell phones during class hours. And as of September 3, 2018, they’re banned during class breaks and mealtimes at school as well, for any student under 15 years old.
France’s Education Minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, called the new legislation as “a law for the 21st century,” according to Agence France-Presse, the French equivalent to the Associated Press. “Being open to technologies of the future doesn’t mean we have to accept all their uses,” he also said.
According to those who wrote the law, nearly 90 percent of French students older than 12 have a cell phone, tablet, smart watch, or all three. The law is aimed at reducing the spread of inappropriate content among that age group, as well as improving discipline and reducing bullying.
Those opposed to the rule say that it has little hope of actually reducing phone use in schools, as nearly all schools already ban phones to no avail, and that it impedes parents’ abilities to reach their children in an emergency.
The law was a campaign pledge of French President Emmanuel Macron, aimed to appeal to parents who worry more and more about “screen time” taking supremacy over physical activity and in-person socialization.
“It’s a good signal that says, ‘school is for studying,’ it’s not about being on your phone,” said Marie-Caroline Madeleine, a Paris parent interviewed by the AFP as she dropped her daughter off at school. “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.”
Schools are allowed to choose how they will enforce the law, and the consequences for breaking it, as well as whether or not they will apply it to students over 15.