These days its normal to see children and teenagers glued to the screens of their phones and many parents are familiar with the tantrums that ensue when screen time is stopped. What many parents probably don’t know is that smartphone use releases dopamine into the brain (the feel-good chemical) in the same way that illegal drugs such as cocaine work a study by the University of Maryland has found. This is a disaster for the developing brains of our children and severely impairs a child’s ability to concentrate on subject matter and retain information in school. While most schools already have a ban on using mobile phones in class, students are usually still allowed to use them during their break – with children now preferring to sit and stare at a screen rather than exercising or socializing with friends.
In light of this, France is now the first country to create what they’ve called a “detox law” which bans the use of mobile phones throughout the entire school grounds. Currently the law is only to take affect for students in elementary, primary and middle school grades but France hopes a law such as this will help combat the growing addiction to technology facing their youth. Some schools were already ahead of the programme and had great success. One such school is rural Brittany’s La Gautrais who banned mobile phones 4 years ago and the students couldn’t be happier. One 14 year old girl said “I do have a phone, but I leave it at home and don’t really think about it much, I don’t rush to check it after school. When I get home, first I’ll have a snack, I’ll chat to my mum, do some homework, then I might look at my phone. But only if I’m waiting for an important message.” What might seem strange to kids these days is that two of her friends don’t even own mobile phones at all. “We don’t really need phones because we’re always chatting to each other in person, we chat the whole time – too much probably – and we’re really good friends,” one said.
Freeing up children from mobile phones during breaktimes give them to chance to experience all the joy that children used to have in the playground – imaginary games, team sports or just quietly reading. If the ban proves to be successful hopefully other countries will follow suit in helping the youth of today to find a happy balance between technology and the real world.