Happy slapping: what does banning mobile phones in schools really serve?
For some reason, I was struck by this story about mobile phones getting banned in schools in Cyprus.
On first glance, it makes something close to sense. Text messaging during class, transmitting answers during tests, surfing the interwebs instead of dissecting frogs, and so on all seem like things to be prevented while the arts and sciences of education are going down.
However, there’s another and potentially sinister side to the ban: protecting schools and authorities from exposure, embarrassment, and all things darker and worse. “There have been several cases in recent years of unruly behavior in classrooms being filmed and posted on the web, while violent bullying incidents, known as ‘happy slapping’, have also being filmed,” the Reuters story reports. Cyprus students caught with a mobile phone that’s turned on may be suspended, and “authorities had even contemplated curtailing mobile telephone reception in school buildings.”
There’s something about the idea putting schools on full digital and cellular lockdown that strikes me as a bad idea. While certainly there should be limits to how and when children are allowed to use mobile phones while at school, it seems wrongheaded to go for a full on ban. Like it’s a rejection of modernity, perhaps, creating an environment where schools are places of the Old Way, where kids can’t wait to break out after the afternoon bell so they can get their texting and videoing and mobile webbing on?
Cyprus isn’t the United States of course, but this is certainly an issue that schools around the world are dealing with.