Kids everywhere are now heading back to school. While it’s a hard adjustment for any child, French schoolchildren have a brand new rule to worry about. French president Emmanuel Macron fulfilled his campaign promise to ban smartphone use in school among French students under 15 years old.
Students were previously forbidden from using phones during class, but the ban now extends to breaks and meal times. Individual schools are allowed to decide for themselves if they want to maintain the ban for students over 15.
Speaking on smartphones, French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said: “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.” Macron, Blanquer, and other officials consider smartphones to be a distraction to today’s children, causing them to be inattentive and anti-social.
Critics of the policy have said the ban is overreaching and ineffective. While they realize the potential smartphones have to be highly distracting, a blanket ban will not stop determined students from using their phones. A more mediated approach, such as letting students use their phones in the hallways or during breaks, will prevent a phone-itchy student from breaking it out during a lesson.
The implementation of the law came as a surprise to some, as Macron repeatedly made promises during his campaign that France would become a premier “startup nation.” Some fear that this smartphone ban would put future French innovators at a technological disadvantage compared to their Silicon Valley counterparts. If France wants to be competitive in the startup department of the digital age, they must balance the harmful aspects of smartphones with the responsible use of technology.