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French Schools Are Tackling Screen Addiction Head On With New Law

French Schools Are Tackling Screen Addiction Head On With New Law
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Updated 2 weeks ago

When children in France start returning to school in September, many of them will be doing it without their smartphones and tablets. 

On Monday, France passed a new law banning internet-connected devices for all school children ages 3 to 15. Devices will have to be left at home or turned off for the duration of the school day. French high schools, with students age 15 and above, will decide for themselves whether or not to apply the ban.

The measure passed by Parliament fulfills a campaign promise by French President Emmanuel Macron, but critics of the new law claim it's a publicity stunt and regressive in its thinking.

Supporters feel the ban will benefit overall academic performance. A South Korean study has shown that screen addiction raises levels of a neurotransmitter that causes distraction and reduces the ability to focus. A similar study from the London School of Economics showed a clear improvement in test scores after banning smart phones.

French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer told BFMTV the law is an effort to protect children. 

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.

Much of the global reaction to the law seems to agree that phones do not belong in the classroom. 

And many were eager to import the ban to their countries. 

French critics of the law, however, are calling it redundant, pointing out that a similar law was passed in France back in 2010. 

"In reality, the ban has already been made," said Alexis Corbière, a former teacher and member of the Unbowed France party. "I don't know a single teacher in this country that allows the use of phones in class." 

Corbière also believe the law is regressive. "This isn't a 21st century law in our eyes, but a law from the era of news channels and binary debate."

Others agreed and felt that education should adapt to new technology rather than resisting it. 

In the fight against screen addiction, the law raises the question: do bans help or simply pass the buck?