The use of cellphones in B.C. classrooms will soon be restricted, Premier David Eby announced Friday.
Eby announced the upcoming measure as part of new actions to keep kids healthy and safe from “online threats.” Other efforts include services to remove images from the internet and legislation to hold social media companies for any harm being caused to students.
Eby said there are two kids in his nine-year-old son’s class who have cellphones.
“He tells me that, at recess, he and his pals gather around the cellphones and watch videos together of things online. I have no idea what they watch, there is no parent there regulating, overseeing what content is being shared with my child at school,” Eby said at Friday’s news conference.
“Teachers are supervising a yard full of kids, many of whom will have cellphones … and so my son has access to unregulated content every single day at school.”
Eby said parents face pressure from their kids to get them a cellphone when their peers have one. He also said the use of cellphones is hard on the classroom environment.
“It disrupts the flow of the classroom, it interrupts kids while they’re learning,” Eby said.
The province said it’ll work with school districts to restrict cellphone use “bell to bell” in classrooms starting September 2024.
“Our biggest anxiety is that if we don’t address this issue, that our kids are put at risk both in terms of their physical safety, but also in terms of their educational outcomes,” Eby said.
Leader of the BC Green Party, Sonia Furstenau, responded to the announcement saying it’s a “step forward,” but the policy needs to go beyond a ban.
“Technology is now a core part of our education system. To be successful, this strategy should extend beyond restrictions and include investment to ensure all students in British Columbia have the necessary tools and are included and supported,” she said in a statement.
Meanwhile, leader of BC United, Kevin Falcon, called for the ban earlier this month saying the “patchwork” systems in place at individual schools weren’t working.
“Protecting our kids and their education outcomes is vital,” Falcon said on social media Friday. “If government can effectively implement this, our children and our schools will be all better for it.”
Restrictions across Canada
B.C. is not the first province to introduce a cellphone ban in schools. Quebec introduced its own ban after the recent winter break. There, teachers have some flexibility to use phones for specific lessons. It’s up to individual schools in the province to come up with penalties for students who don’t follow the rules.
Ontario has had its own restrictions since 2019, but some teachers unions in the province say the rules aren’t being enforced and school boards are revisiting the issue. Earlier this month, the Toronto District School Board opted to come up with a new policy cellphone policy, with one trustee saying its current system “is not working.”
With files from The Canadian Press