The Victorian government has finally bitten the bullet and banned the use of mobile phones in schools. By students, that is: I assume teachers are still free to tweet and play Angry Birds in class as they always have. This has caused some argument in the media, which surprised me a little: not that there are people who would disagree with the new law, but that anyone would consider listening to their whining.
Here is the thing about phones in schools: you don’t need them. Like, at all. Among all the many things that children are supposed to do at school, none of them involve a phone. Whether it be calling, texting, Instagramming or revenge porn, it can all wait until outside school hours.
I am a father myself, so I know how hard it is to get kids off their phones. My own children would far rather be playing with their phones than reading a book, or helping around the house, or talking to their parents. Now admittedly, that last one actually works in my favour, because God knows no parent wants to waste their life in conversation with their offspring, but nevertheless, the difficulty in getting my kids to do anything that doesn’t involve a smartphone grates mightily on me. At home, all I can offer to discourage phone use is the threat of punishments, and as my children know full well I am a complete sap without the heart to follow through on my threats, they have limited value.
But at least at school, they will now be prevented from distracting themselves with phones by the force of legislation. I’m not sure yet what penalties have been put in place for those who disobey the no-phones rule, but I’m hoping some moderate prison sentences are in store.
I get that kids won’t like having their phones taken away. They’ll say it deprives them of a vital tool with which to experience the modern world. To which I say: tough titties. You can experience the modern world on the weekend: school is where you go to learn the times tables and what happens when you put baking soda in vinegar.
Some have also pointed out that banning phones will not solve all digital ills. For example, kids will still be able to distract themselves, go on social media, and engage in cyberbullying at school, by using their laptops. To which I say, so what are you even complaining about? If we ban phones, we adults get both the relief of not having to see classes full of zombies staring at their devices all day instead of learning, AND the satisfaction of having crushed children’s spirits a little – and you kids get to keep on bullying each other on Facebook. It’s win-win! I can’t think of any law passed in my lifetime with such a total absence of downside.