Back to School | Phones out!

As the bell rings for thousands of students to return to school, Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge says he has no plans to restrict cellphone use in schools, as has been done in Ontario and France. That doesn’t stop some colleges from imposing clear rules on their students.

Written at 05.00

Marie-Eve Morasse

Marie-Eve Morasse
The press

“We are like the irreducible Gauls. »

Forget Julius Caesar and the Romans: the attacker referred to by the principal of Grande-Rivière high school is the mobile phone.

Students “bumping into each other” in the hallways for lack of looking straight ahead, this Gatineau school would no longer have.


Serge Guitard, principal of the Grande-Rivière high school

We want the students to discuss and not always have their eyes on their mobile phones. We know that outside of school, they spend a lot of time on their electronic device. It is believed that a break during the day does them good.

Serge Guitard, principal of the Grande-Rivière high school

For five years now, it has been part of the school’s rules that the use of personal electronic devices must take place outside the institution’s walls or in dedicated rooms at lunchtime. Young people can have a phone with them, but they must not use it.

“It has a good side, it gets them out in the fresh air,” laughs the director.

However, banning mobile phones in education across the province is not a path the Minister of Education wants to take.

In an interview with The pressJean-François Roberge acknowledges that while mobile phones can be “useful tools”, they are also sometimes a “distraction”.

“It’s up to school teams and teachers to decide how they are able to flag cell phone use, to regulate it, to use it appropriately,” says Mr Roberge.

Since 2018, mobile phones in France have been banned in schools and colleges, in classrooms and outside (especially during breaks). It is written into the law: A student’s phone can be confiscated.

“A student cannot therefore use his phone to replace his calculator or to find out the time,” says the French government’s website. Exceptions only: use is permitted for educational purposes or for students with disabilities.

Ontario also banned phones in elementary and high schools in 2019. However, the province is a little less restrictive: Students can use their phones during breaks.

Beneficial effect on social life

In Sorel-Tracy, the high school Fernand-Lefebvre has also banned its 1,200 students from using mobile phones within its walls. We were inspired by certain private schools that have adopted a similar policy.

“We know they have the phone on them, but if they want to use it, it’s in rare exceptions: a safety issue, someone in the family who’s sick,” illustrates Laurence Cournoyer, spokesperson for the Sorel-Tracy school service. center.

As in Gatineau, young people have to leave school to text, even in winter. “If students are filming other students or members of staff, we will take action, including outside,” Ms Cournoyer.

The effect of this regulation, which was introduced a few years ago, has been clear, says the spokesperson: students socialize more among themselves and bullying has decreased on social networks, although it remains impossible to control what young people do when they leave school.

Parents are far from opposed to this way of doing things. The students themselves are “not happy”, but respect the rules like everyone else.

Same story in Gatineau. “Are the students okay with that? None. Do they understand the reasons why it is prohibited? Yes,” says Serge Guitard, principal of the Grande-Rivière school.

As for the parents, they approve. “I think they are satisfied because their child is not on their cell phone all day,” says Mr. Guitar.

In Gatineau as in Sorel-Tracy, students are subject to sanctions if they do not respect the rules regarding the use of the telephone.

Indispensable for some

Director General of the Center Cyber-aide, Cathy Tétreault, regrets that the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs’ strategy on “screen use and youth health”, which was unveiled last spring, is not tied to concrete actions in schools.


Cathy Tétreault, CEO of Center Cyber-aide

“Is there an opening from Minister Roberge? He really likes technologies, that’s correct. When we open access by providing tablets [aux élèves], do we care about their general health? Are we preventing cyber addiction? she asks.

At the Rivière-du-Nord school service center (CSSRN), in the Laurentians, it is also said that it is the responsibility of each school, or even each teacher, to make its own policy regarding the use of mobile phones in the classroom. .

For some teachers, it is important to ban the phone in class. “Our young people are super connected,” notes Nadyne Brochu, spokesperson for CSSRN.

For other teachers, it is an additional problem.

“We have pockets behind the classroom doors to put the phones in, but often the young people don’t use them. There should be one rule for all students, but our school doesn’t seem to be there,” notes a high school teacher.

“As soon as you ask them to put their phone away, it’s like asking them to put their life on hold,” said another.

Laissez-faire, easy option?

In this context, how can one ban the phone and allow other technological tools in the classroom?

“The mobile phone is an extension of young people’s lives, it’s fun. There’s a fun side that they don’t have with the tablet, which is used to follow a course,” says Cathy Tétreault, before adding that students often find a way to install the applications they want on any device , which the school provides.

The Grande-Rivière school has not closed the door on technology in the classroom, but its director believes other schools have “bought peace” by allowing the use of tagless cell phones.

It would be easier to say: we let go of everything. But it causes other problems: There are young people who film [à l’école], who put it on social networks, on TikTok. There is this page that we can’t manage.

Serge Guitard, principal of the Grande-Rivière high school

Every year, the high school’s rules are reviewed together with the student council, staff and parents.

“Up until now, everything tells us that we should continue in this direction,” concludes Mr. Guitar.

What do you think ?

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Learn more

  • 74%
    Percentage of young Quebecers aged 6 to 17 who use a smartphone

    Source: NETendance survey, 2021

    According to the Ontario government, the percentage of parents, students and teachers who supported limiting cell phone use in school was

    Source: Government of Ontario, 2018

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