Phones use in class is the norm. But not for long … ?
Written by Taylor Chung
France has recently banned students from using their phones in class. Students at Renaissance College Hong Kong are left confused by a lack of an official phone policy regarding phone use, with students stating that “a ban on phone use in class should happen.”
Walking around Renaissance College Hong Kong (RCHK) during lunchtime today, I noticed that seeing a student not glued to a screen was a rare sight. Most students walked, sat or ate while glued to a device, not bothering to look up and talk to the person next to them. Once a rare occurrence, this has become the norm as students gravitate to their phone instead of to those around them.
On the other side of the world, on the 31st of July, 2018 France passed a law requiring students under the age of 15 to leave their phones and other smart devices at home or switched off in their bags. In stark contrast, the RCHK Secondary School has no explicit policy on phone usage in classrooms. Gentle Lung, a student at RCHK, agrees, stating that "there is no 'official' phone policy for students, often leaving students confused” and wondering what to do. This causes some students to be distracted by their phones in class.
A recent case study investigating the phone use of RCHK secondary students found that: the average student spends over three hours on their phone every day. When compared with statistics from around the globe, RCHK students nearly double their French and German counterparts in daily phone usage, while using their phones 7% more than other Hong Kong students. This discovery leads me to question where RCHK students find the time to use their phones, are students using their phones in class or are they taking time away from other areas such as sleep to use their phones?
Most doctors agree that a healthy amount of sleep for teenagers is nine hours per night. According to the Centre for Health Protection: 90 percent of students in Hong Kong get less than this on school days. This lack of sleep harms the student, lowering their academic performance while causing negative health implications. Should students consistently use their devices instead of choosing to maintain a regular sleep schedule, this could lead to disastrous long-term consequences.
Consequences of sleep deprivation include weaker academic performance and long-term brain damage. As of 2016, the average young adult in Hong Kong gets 6.6-hours of sleep every night, much less than the recommended minimum. A study conducted by the University of Nevada found that students who got nine hours of sleep scored 12.5 percent better than students that got less than six hours of sleep. If students continue to sleep less than the suggested amount, their academic performance will decline, increasing their workload and stress, creating an unhealthy cycle of staying up late at night to finish work.
Another way phone usage takes away from sleep time is their tendency to distract students in class, causing students to accomplish less and increasing their workload at home. According to Dr. Gloria Mark, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, “it takes 25 minutes for us to regain concentration after an interruption.” If students are interrupted by their phones constantly, this is a significant amount of time wasted every day. Rebecca Yang, a student at RCHK, states that “it’s not out of the ordinary for students to pull out their phones during class and go off task.” Olivia Kim, another student at RCHK admits to “using her phone to check notifications during class.” These distractions cause regular breaks in concentration, which can amount to over one hour of lost focus every day if students are interrupted more than four times by their phone. Since phones distract students so much, causing them to waste precious time, why should students be allowed to use their phones in class?
To answer this question, I asked one of the Vice-Principals at RCHK, Brandy Stern, why students were permitted to use their phones in classrooms. She shared that phones are used by teachers to enhance student learning: for instance, a teacher could utilize a specific app to improve student learning. If this is taken away, it could impact students negatively. However, according to Year 11 student, Amber Kwok, “Teachers rarely used phones to support learning, instead of using laptops.”
When I asked students if banning phone use in classrooms would affect them, Latifah Marafa stated that there would be “little to no negative implications as phones are rarely used for educational purposes, instead often distracting students.” This casts doubt on the use of phones as an effective educational tool in the classroom. Cheuk-Yui, a year 11 student, believes that “a ban on phones in classrooms should happen since it would allow students to focus on their work while removing distractions.” After interviewing multiple RCHK students, I found that these students represented the general consensus showing that the student support for a ban is present and that implementing a ban like this should be relatively easy.
Often, it is difficult for people to break their habits as they lose the willpower to continue, leading to disastrous consequences. So, this leads me to question why RCHK hasn’t followed the lead of France and supported students by giving the ban a green light, removing a major distraction from the classroom. If RCHK were to do this, students would be able to avoid losing their concentration and valuable time that could be spent resting, relaxing, or catching up on much-needed sleep. This ban would benefit all parties involved, student health would improve while the school’s academic performance would increase. Seeing as the support for the ban is present from students, what are we waiting for?
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