Watch out, kids. Ontario is coming for your phones! Sort of...
On Tuesday, March 12, the Ontario government announced a new law that aims to ban cellphone use in classrooms. This means that outside of a few cases — such as educational purposes, health reasons, and special needs — those devices are not welcome at your desk.
The cellphone ban would take effect in September. Though bans like this already exist in several school boards across the country, Ontario would be the first province to make it a law.
Understandably, this law has set off a real debate. Let's look at the arguments for each.
They're a distraction
For many parents and teachers, cellphones are a distraction. Instead of paying attention to their lessons, students are able to text friends, watch videos, listen to music, and play games.
"Ontario's students need to be able to focus on their learning — not their cellphones," said Education Minister Lisa Thompson in a statement. "By banning cellphone use that distracts from learning, we are helping students to focus on acquiring the foundational skills they need, like reading, writing and math."
The government also said that in a survey of educational consultants, or experts, about 97 percent were in favour of at least some cellphone restrictions in school.
A ban is not that easy... or even helpful
But not all experts and teachers like the idea. Critics say that the province needs to do more research to know whether a cellphone ban is the right idea. And others say that they've already seen the evidence that it doesn't work.
For example, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) actually banned cellphones in 2007. Then, in 2011, it reversed the ban. Why? According to the TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird, the board didn't see the full potential of cellphones at first. Now they want to "teach students how to use technology responsibly."
Other teachers are worried that they will spend more time trying to police kids than teaching them. In a piece in the Globe and Mail, teacher Jamie Mitchell said that despite the TDSB ban, "phone use didn't decrease."
"Near the end of my third year of teaching," he wrote, "I felt like I was spending all my time policing students ... and that was getting in the way of the actual learning."
To ban or not to ban?
We get it. Our devices are important. Aaaand fun. And they are definitely distracting. (How many times have you tried to get the attention of your parents as they check Instagram or Facebook, right?)
But they're also here to stay. And isn't it better to learn how to control yourself around phones than just locking them away in a drawer?
It's a big question that's not going away. What do you think should happen to cellphones in classrooms?