Cellphone use to be prohibited in class: Ministry

By Zhu Bochen
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, February 26, 2021
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A photo taken on July 17, 2018 shows two students playing games on a cellphone during a school break in Zhengzhou, Henan province. [Photo courtesy of VCG]

Starting from the upcoming spring semester, primary and middle schools across China will restrict the use of cellphones by students in class, and communicate with parents to help raise public awareness around the issue, according to a press conference held by the Ministry of Education (MOE) on Tuesday.

The move aims to tackle the harmful side effects of cellphone overuse among teenagers, which include vision problems, poor posture and internet addiction disorders. 

On Jan. 15, the MOE issued a circular that set the tone for nationwide management efforts on the issue. In addition to banning phone use in class, the circular suggests students do not bring cellphones into schools unless completely necessary. Schools will be required to help students get in touch with their parents via other means during school days.

Teachers are also not allowed to assign homework via cellphones or require students to finish their homework using cellphones, the circular said.

“Both schools and parents should join hands to let students be fully aware of the serious harm of excessive cellphone use and internet addiction,” said MOE official Lyu Yugang at the press conference.

Lyu suggested that parents make a timetable with their children on cellphone use at home, and explore more diversity in their home environment, so that children can make better use of their time by reading, exercising, and doing other activities. Lyu also called for parents to take responsibility and act as good role models for their children by firstly not being addicted to cellphones themselves.

The policy has given rise to a heated discussion on social media as many agree that it can help students better concentrate in class, and create more opportunities for them to talk, play sports, and focus more on real human contact with their peers in school.

Others believe that the bans can help improve children’s eye health, and address the issue of nearsightedness among the younger generation.

Statistics from the National Health Commission showed that the rate of myopia among teenagers reached 53.6% in 2018. And the MOE found the figure had further increased over last year, as children spent significantly more time using electronic screens for remote learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, there are also concerns as to whether the policy will cut children off from the outside world. Many suggest schools and local education authorities take flexible measures during the implementation process, and teach children how to use cellphones and access information on the internet in more practical ways.

The bans on students’ use of cellphones in class is also stipulated in China’s newly revised Law on the Protection of Minors, which will take effect on June 1, 2021.

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