Public and private schools in Brazil and other countries are increasing restrictions on cell phones in the face of studies that point to serious consequences of excessive use of the device by children and adolescents, both for learning and mental health.
The veto in the classroom is already widespread, and the total ban in the school environment is beginning to be adopted, normally with the support – and even the appeal – of families.
At Escola da Vila, in São Paulo, for example, a plastic support was placed next to the blackboard, similar to a shoe rack, in the high school classrooms, where students should store unplugged devices. “This has helped a lot to stay focused in class,” says Pablo Soares Damaceno, high school director.
He says that the school gives preference to notebooks and tablets for activities involving technology and that, during recess, it has encouraged the practice of sports, music and games in an attempt to reduce dependence on cell phones.
The advancement of restrictions was recommended by a report from UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) last year, which was scathing in pointing out studies that show a “negative association between the use of technologies and student performance “.
At the time of the release of the report, in July, 1 in 4 countries already had rules to restrict cell phones in schools and, among those that had announced the veto, were Spain, Portugal, Finland, Netherlands, Switzerland and Mexico. Since then, the ban has been gaining ground in other countries, including Canada and the United States.
It is a movement opposite to that of the first post-pandemic period, when, after online classes, schools understood that they should incorporate cell phones, also considering the difficulties in socializing students caused by isolation.
Likewise, the use of technology in education has expanded, and cell phones have gained status as a pedagogical tool, even being used in the classroom. The general idea was to take advantage of what would be the positive side of the cell phone, based on the observation that no one seemed capable of letting go of the device.
In practice, it proved to be unfeasible to contain the use of social networks and online games by students and it was noticed that cell phones, even when kept in backpacks, hinder concentration.
In December, Pisa (International Student Assessment Program) released alarming data, including that 65% of 15-year-old students in the countries surveyed reported that they are distracted in math classes by their cell phones. In Brazil, the average is even higher, reaching 80%. Almost half (45%) of students said they feel nervous or anxious when they are away from their cell phones.
Given the evident losses, control should be more effective in the new academic year.
Walter Borja, director of Colégio Nossa Senhora das Graças, Gracinha, in São Paulo, says that, since last year, there was already a decision to ban cell phones until the 6th year in the classroom, “but the control was superficial” .
“Now cell phones must be turned off and are placed in a box or kept in backpacks. Each room has its own box,” he explains. From the 6th year onwards and in high school, the director reports, the use of cell phones for research and other educational purposes was previously encouraged. “But now we are going to contain this use,” he says.
Colégio Magno developed, with the participation of families, students and teachers, a new policy on cell phone use, which, from now on, will not be allowed in classrooms or for educational activities.
“We understand that, yes, external contacts take away students’ focus and harm learning”, says director Cláudia Tricate. The technology, when necessary, will be used through other devices, such as notebooks and tablets.
Francisco Manuel Ferreira, pedagogical director of primary 2 and secondary education at Escola Viva, says that a total ban is being considered for this year, “depending on the situations that arise”. For now, the use of the device is allowed during breaks and in the classroom, for educational purposes, from the 6th year onwards.
“Due to excessive and even serious use of cell phones, such as undue exposure of students on social networks, we considered suspending cell phones in general at school last year, in some grades and for a specified period of time,” he states.
According to him, the total veto has been requested by families, but the school still resists, considering “that cell phones are part of life and that school is an important space in the formative process of learning to deal with technology”.
It is the same reasoning as Carandá, in which use is prohibited until the 5th year, but allowed from the 6th year onwards during breaks and, with the teacher’s authorization and for pedagogical purposes, in classes. “We understand that digital education is also the responsibility of the school and that banning cell phones in the school environment only limits the problem”, argues the pedagogical director, Ligia Colonhesi Berenguel.
In the state education network of São Paulo, the use of technology has been growing under the Tarcísio de Freitas (Republicans) administration, including cell phone applications.
Asked about the advancement of restrictions on the device against harm to children and adolescents, the Department of Education, under the command of Renato Feder, responded, in a note, that “the use of cell phones in the classroom is permitted exclusively for pedagogical purposes” and that “the misuse of technologies is mediated through the Program for Improving Coexistence and School Protection (Conviva-SP), which provides for dialogue between students and school management and, when necessary, with the presence of parents and guardians”.
SUPPORT FOR THE BAN
In Rio de Janeiro, the complete ban is gaining momentum. The capital’s city hall launched a public consultation in December on the total ban on cell phones in municipal schools, and 83% of the more than 10,000 demonstrations from society were in favor.
As a result, the Eduardo Paes (PSD) administration published a decree on Friday (2) vetoing the device even during recess — with some exceptions.
In August last year, a decree had already prohibited its use in the classroom. The municipal secretary of Education, Renan Ferreirinha, mentions the “epidemic of distractions” to defend the expansion of cell phone restrictions during breaks between classes and even during recess. He says that, without cell phones, children and young people have more time to learn and socialize.
Escola Parque, a recognized private institution in Rio and frequented by the children of celebrities and intellectuals, developed, with the participation of families, students and teachers, the “plan to change the culture of cell phone use”, which foresees the collection of devices before the start of classes. Among the rules for this year is the total ban on the device for 6th and 7th grade students, even during recess.
For those in grades 8 and 9, use will be permitted for three recesses per week. The plan also provides alternatives to cell phones for breaks, such as the organization of conversation circles, film clubs, drawing and Rubik’s Cube and RPG workshops.
“We have already observed the harmful effects of cell phones on students in recent years: addition, distraction, reduction of privacy, instrument for cyberbullying, among others”, says Thiago Vedova, advisor of elementary school 2 (6th to 9th year).
He says he did a pedagogical exchange in Barcelona, where he observed initiatives to restrict cell phones. “It’s a worldwide movement, with the support of pediatricians, neurologists, psychologists and entities linked to childhood and education”, he points out.