Governments start crackdown on smartphone use in schools

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iPhone X standing
There's growing concern about the effects of mobile devices on young people.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

The government of southeastern Australian state, New South Wales, has said that it plans to carry out a comprehensive review of smartphone use in schools. This will look at the effects of smartphones on kids in school, both in and out classrooms.

Why is that significant? Because, building on the growing concern about smartphone addiction, it represents a developing trend focused on cracking down on the use of phones. And New South Wales isn’t the only place doing this.

This week, the U.K.’s culture secretary suggested that mobile devices ought to be banned in schools, while France has committed to enforcing a ban on mobile devices during school hours, starting in September. It seems likely that other countries could join in with their own initiatives.

The New South Wales review, headed up by a child psychologist, will seek to find a balance between the positives and negatives of smartphone use — rather than acting as a blanket ban.

“While smartphones connect us to the world in ways never imagined just a decade ago, they raise issues that previous generations have not had to deal with,” NSW education minister, Rob Stokes, said today. “In the classroom and in the playground, smartphones provide opportunities for students and parents to stay connected, but can also create other problems. From screen time to cyberbullying and social media, smartphones have generated concerns for parents, teachers and students.”

Not every Australian local government is in agreement, however. The Victorian education minister has said that decisions should be made on a school-by-school basis.

Apple’s response to these concerns

Apple, to its credit, has been impressively responsive to this issue. When it was asked by investors to look into the issue of smartphone use on young people, it quickly committed to doing so. The result is the new iOS Screen Time feature, which reveals how long people are using their smartphones for.

Steve Jobs once told journalist Nick Bilton that he limited his own kids’ exposure to technology — to the point of not even letting them use the latest hot Apple devices.

During a recent interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep, Tim Cook, meanwhile, said that, “we’ve never been about maximizing usage of our devices. It’s never been a focus of ours.”

Nonetheless, this is a tricky area for Apple to navigate. It wants to appeal to young customers, and pushing to get Apple devices into schools has been a long-term mission of the company. It will be interesting to watch how schools continue to respond to the so-called “public health crisis” of young people using phones.

Is this a subject that concerns you, or is it an overblown worry? Do you see this issue hurting companies like Apple? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Source: Guardian