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Cell phones in schools call for attention

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DISTRACTING DEVICE?: A debate rages on whether educational institutions should allow students to use mobile phones on the campus.
DISTRACTING DEVICE?: A debate rages on whether educational institutions should allow students to use mobile phones on the campus.

Meera Srinivasan

Some city schools seem to favour a total ban

CHENNAI: Pencil box, note books, text books, lab coat, lunch bag, water bottle… and it does not stop there. The checklist of items to be taken to school, for many high school students in the city, seems to have a new entrant: the mobile phone.

Following the arrest of a 21-year-old computer engineer on charges of downloading obscene pictures and transferring them to cellular phones, the CB CID (Crime Branch Criminal Investigation Department) has recommended to the State Government that phones with cameras and blue tooth facility be banned in educational institutions.

CB CID Deputy Inspector-General of Police R. Arumugam says: “With rapid technological advancements, the threat looms large. Why do students need camera phones anyway? ”

While the CB CID has recommended a ban on such handsets, some city schools seem to favour a total ban on students using mobile phones of any kind.

Teachers are increasingly finding students text messaging in class. Not surprisingly, many have welcomed the Karnataka Government’s recent decision to ban the use of mobile phones by those below 16 years in educational institutions, as the gadgets were a nuisance in classrooms .

Principal of Chettinad Vidyashram S. Bhavani Shankar says the ban is welcome. “We have put a total ban on use of mobile phones in our school. We have made available enough number of PCOs at school for students’ use,” he says. But some parents have been requesting him to permit their children to carry phones. “They want to call the child before tuition classes and they want the child to be able to call the driver,” he says.

However, Renu Maheshwari, mother of a Sishya School student, says: “When a school has the facility for students to make calls, I don’t see why a child needs to carry a mobile phone to school.”

While most school managements and parents are convinced that students should not be allowed to use mobile phone in class, a few are not in favour of a total ban.

“Yes, they should not use it in school. But children go for tuition classes directly from school. Adults would like to stay in touch with the child,” says Komal Singh, a parent.

It is not uncommon to come across parents gifting teenage children a mobile phone on their birthdays. It is the students’ mastery of the mobile phone handsets that has made teachers and school managements wary.

“It is so disturbing when we hear of SMS and MMS scandals involving schoolchildren. And it [mobile phone] is certainly a distraction in class, even if put on silent mode. Why permit them to use phones and be worried all the time,” asks a school headmistress in Saidapet.

Mobile phone service providers say only those above 18 years could obtain a connection as the application form is a legal document. For students using the device, parents or older friends take the connection in their names and lend it to the student.

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