France bans smartphones in schools – should the UK be next?

France has banned children from using smartphones, while at school. From the academic year beginning in September, kids will need to turn off their phones while on school property, or leave the devices at home.

The blanket ban applies to children aged between 3 and 15 and also to other connected devices like tablets. For children over 15, the schools will be able to choose whether to enact the ban. French education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer says the new legislation will help combat smartphone addiction among younger users.

He told French news channel BFMTV (via CNN): “We know today that there is a phenomenon of screen addiction, the phenomenon of bad mobile phone use… Our main role is to protect children and adolescents. It is a fundamental role of education, and this law allows it.”

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The ban, which was a central tenet of Emmanuel Macron’s election campaign, passed through the French parliament almost unanimously with 62 votes to 1. Many lawmakers abstained from the vote, claiming it would change little because of a 2010 ruling, which banned phones during “all teaching activity.”

There are some exceptions for disabled students, extra-curricular programs and other uses related to teaching.

The clampdown on mobile devices in schools comes after France passed laws last year requiring companies to limit the use of work-related tech outside of regular working hours. The so-called “right to disconnect” laws aimed to clamp down on the expectation that employees are digitally available to employers outside of the office.

“Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash, like a dog,” Benoît Hamon, former French education minister, told the BBC. “The texts, the messages, the emails: They colonize the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down.”

Should the UK be next?

Will Britain adopt similar laws and remove the distraction of smartphones from the classroom? Former culture secretary Matt Hancock thinks it’s time.

In an article in the Telegraph a month ago, Hancock wrote: “Technology makes being a parent much harder. And schools have a big role too. I enthusiastically support using technology for teaching. But we also need to teach children how to stay safe with technology. Why do young children need phones in schools?

“There are a number of schools across the country that simply don’t allow them. I believe that very young children don’t need to have access to social media. While it is up to individual schools to decide rather than government, I admire headteachers who do not allow mobiles to be used during the school day. I encourage more schools to follow their lead. The evidence is that banning phones in schools works.

“Studies have shown mobile phones can have a real impact on working memory and fluid intelligence, even if the phone is on a table or in a bag.”

Could Britain take a leaf out of France’s book here? Or do you want your kids to have their phones available during school hours? Let us know @TrustedReviews on Twitter.