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2008年12月27日 (土)



--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 26(IHT/Asahi: December 27,2008)

EDITORIAL: Cellphone ban in schools


The Osaka prefectural board of education is calling on public elementary and junior high schools to ban pupils and students from bringing cellphones into school as a general rule. The Meeting on Education Rebuilding, a government panel, also put together a draft report to the same effect. The problem of children and cellphones has become a major issue.


The prefectural board's decision is also in line with Osaka Governor Toru Hashimoto's policy. Already, most public elementary and junior high schools in the prefecture prohibit pupils and students from bringing cellphones to school and as such, the actual impact of the ban will not be that great.


The governor stated clearly that "excessive dependence (on cellphones) stands in the way of studies and health." Indeed, a survey by the prefectural board that looked into how children actually use cellphones showed that many of them are virtually addicted to their handsets. Fifteen percent of first-year junior high school students surveyed said they use their cellphones for three hours or more each day and one in 10 said they send more than 50 text messages daily.


Fifteen percent of junior high school students said that when they receive text messages, they answer them within three minutes. According to teachers, there seems to be a tacit rule among pupils and students that one must answer messages within three minutes. They are apparently gauging their closeness to each other with the quickness in which they reply.


The survey also revealed that children who reply on their cellphones tend to spend less time studying at home and their lives are more irregular than those who are not.


This trend is thought to be more or less common throughout the nation. According to the National Congress of Parents and Teachers Association of Japan, one in five fifth-graders at elementary schools carries a cellphone.


When we think of the seriousness of the situation, we believe the decision to ban cellphones from school is reasonable.


At the same time, however, cellphones can also be effective in protecting children from crime. The Osaka prefectural board of education also said it plans to leave it to the discretion of principals whether to individually allow children to bring cellphones to school, depending on the circumstances. Another idea is to have schools keep handsets during school hours and return them to children when they leave.


Of course, banning cellphones from school does not solve all problems.


What we are concerned about is the rise in cases of bullying that use e-mail and the Internet. According to a Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology survey covering elementary, junior and senior high school students, cases of harassment that used personal computers and cellphones in the 2007 school year through March amounted to about 5,900. The figure represents an increase of about 1,000 from the previous year. The negative effects of harmful websites are another worrisome factor.


It is time for society as a whole to deal with the situation. One idea that is being mooted is to promote the use of cellphones with limited functions for verbal communication and the global positioning system so parents, guardians and family members will know the location of the carrier at all times. There is also a service called filtering that limits access to harmful websites. We need to seriously think, together with cellphone-related businesses, about creating handset models and services designed exclusively for children.


But homes play the most important role. If parents establish rules such as not allowing the use of cellphones during mealtimes and turning them off at night, school rules would also be more effective.



Above all, we need to save children from addiction to cellphones and help them enhance real communication skills to exchange ideas with others face to face. Both classrooms and homes should serve for such a purpose.


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