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UNESCO Calls for a Ban on Smartphones in Schools Around the World

UNESCO Calls for a Ban on Smartphones in Schools Around the World

  • by Ozhan Ozkan

UNESCO, the UN agency responsible for education, science, and culture, has released a report advocating for a global ban on the use of smartphones in schools. The agency believes that such a measure would improve the quality of education and protect children from cyberbullying and harassment.

The report points to evidence showing that excessive smartphone use is directly linked to a decline in academic performance and negatively affects children's emotional well-being. It emphasizes that digital technology, including AI, should be used in education while prioritizing face-to-face interaction with teachers.

UNESCO cautions policymakers against hasty adoption of digital technologies in education, as their positive impact and cost-effectiveness may be overestimated. The report argues that online learning should not neglect the "social aspect" of education, and increased individualization may overlook the true essence of education.

Governments are advised to set clear goals and principles for using digital technologies in education to ensure they benefit students' health and do not harm democracy and human rights by invading privacy or promoting online hate speech. Citing research, the report highlights a "negative relationship" between excessive digital technology use and academic performance.

While technology has the potential to provide new learning opportunities, UNESCO acknowledges that its benefits are not equally accessible to all, with low-income individuals often excluded due to the expense of digital education infrastructure. Additionally, there is a lack of credible research on the benefits of digital technologies in education, as much of it is funded by private education companies with vested interests.

UNESCO highlights that some national authorities are starting to prioritize learners' needs, such as China, which limits digital device use to 30% of class time with regular breaks. During the pandemic, online learning was instrumental in maintaining education, but it also exposed millions without internet access to educational disparities.

The report reveals that one in six countries has already banned smartphones in schools, with France implementing the norm in 2018, and the Netherlands planning to do so in 2024. However, attempts to introduce a nationwide ban in the UK in 2021 faced opposition from trade unions, as they argued that such decisions should be made by educational institutions' management.


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