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France's solution to teenage phone addiction

It is now illegal for pupils to use mobile phones, tablets, smart watches or other connected items in écoles and collèges.

19 December 2018
By Samantha David

Mobiles prevent children concentrating, are a tool for online bullying as well as a temptation to thieves, and prevent pupils making friends in real life, according to the authorities.

It is not against the law to take a mobile to school but on the premises they have to be switched off and put away. Special phone lockers might be an interesting way forward, suggests the government website. It is also illegal for pupils to use their tech devices on school trips.

The website says punishments can include confiscating the phone for the rest of the day, extra homework and detention.

But how is all this going to work? Are staff going to prowl the grounds seeking out the Candy Crush kids?

One hopes not. The law should be just a backup for what ought to be self-evident: you don’t fiddle with your phone when someone is speaking to you or when you are supposed to be working.

And now a law backs it up, there can be no argument when teachers insist on phones being turned off.

I bet there will be, though. It’s hard enough stopping children sneaking phones into their beds, let alone persuading them to stop using them during the day.

Excessive mobile use is a problem.

The endless body-perfect images, the competition to have the best Insta pix, the coolest Facebook page, the most likes, the most retweets... It all piles on the pressure. It also eats time that could be spent making friends, learning instruments, playing sport and other old-fashioned stuff.

And from a parent’s point of view, it’s no fun living with a teenager who is physically present but mentally awol.

Perhaps people living in the so-called zones blanches – those patches of rural France where there is still no network, internet or wifi – are rather lucky.

Instead of complaining and asking the authorities to get them connected as soon as possible, maybe they could sell their properties to families with ados?

In fact, once more people realise the benefits of living in a zone blanche – your kids look up when you speak to them, no more battles to limit screen time – perhaps house prices in these areas will rise.

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