French Government To Ban Mobile Phones In Schools

The French government is to ban students from using mobile phones in the country’s primary, junior and middle schools. Children will be allowed to bring their phones to school, but not allowed to get them out at any time until they leave, even during breaks.

A proposed ban was included in Emmanuel Macron’s successful presidential election campaign this year.

Jean-Michel Blanquer, the French education minister, said the measure would come into effect from the start of the next school year in September 2018. It will apply to all pupils from the time they start school at age of six – up to about 15 when they start secondary school. Blanquer said some education establishments already prohibited pupils from using their mobiles.

“Sometimes you need a mobile for teaching reasons … for urgent situations, but their use has to be somehow controlled,” he told RTL radio. The minister said the ban was also a “public health message to families”, adding: “It’s good that children are not too often, or even at all, in front of a screen before the age of seven.”

The French headteachers’ union was skeptical that the ban could be enforced. “This new announcement from the [education] ministry leaves us dubious because we’re having trouble understanding what is the real issue here. In general, we’re used to them being logical and pragmatic about things, and here, we can’t find the logic or the pragmatism in the announcements,” said Philippe Vincent, the union’s deputy general secretary.

Outside one middle school in the centre of Paris, pupils asked about the measure seemed unimpressed. “I don’t understand how it will work. Who will take the phones, where will they put them … how will we get them back?” said one 13-year-old boy.

– excerpt and image from ‘France to ban mobile phones in schools from September’, Kim Willsher, The Guardian, 11 Dec 2017

“Tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works”

A former Facebook executive has said he feels “tremendous guilt” over his work on “tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works”, joining a growing chorus of critics of the social media giant.

Chamath Palihapitiya, who was vice-president for user growth at Facebook before he left the company in 2011, said: “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.” The remarks, which were made at a Stanford Business School event in November, were just surfaced by tech website the Verge on Monday.

“This is not about Russian ads,” he added. “This is a global problem … It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other.”

Palihapitiya’s comments last month were made one day after Facebook’s founding president, Sean Parker, criticized the way that the company “exploit[s] a vulnerability in human psychology” by creating a “social-validation feedback loop” during an interview at an Axios event.

Parker had said that he was “something of a conscientious objector” to using social media, a stance echoed by Palihapitaya who said that he was now hoping to use the money he made at Facebook to do good in the world.

“I can’t control them,” Palihapitaya said of his former employer. “I can control my decision, which is that I don’t use that shit. I can control my kids’ decisions, which is that they’re not allowed to use that shit.”

He also called on his audience to “soul search” about their own relationship to social media. “Your behaviors, you don’t realize it, but you are being programmed,” he said. “It was unintentional, but now you gotta decide how much you’re going to give up, how much of your intellectual independence.”

– excerpt from ‘Former Facebook executive: social media is ripping society apart’, Julia Carrie Wong, The Guardian, 12 Dec 2017