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B.C. government cracking down on cellphones, internet content at schools

Click to play video: 'B.C. government aims to restrict cell phone use in school'
B.C. government aims to restrict cell phone use in school
The B.C. government will require school districts to restrict cell phone use 'bell-to-bell' in all schools, starting with the next school year in September. Kristen Robinson reports. – Jan 26, 2024

BC. government officials, including B.C. Premier David Eby, held a press conference on Friday to discuss the dangers to kids, especially elementary-aged students, of having access to phones while at school.

Eby said schools are not equipped to monitor what content young students are watching, especially during recess and lunch breaks.

“(Staff) are monitoring yards full of kids, many of whom have cellphones,” he said.

“My son has access to unregulated internet content every single day at school.”

Eby used his own family as an example and said while his son does not have a cellphone, a few other students in his class do and they all huddle around the phones during their breaks.

“The companies that run these apps on these phones… their interest is not in protecting our kids,” he said.

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“Their interest is keeping our kids online, engaged in their apps with ever-more extreme content so they can make money.”

Click to play video: 'Gifting your kid tech this season? How to safely introduce them to the digital world'
Gifting your kid tech this season? How to safely introduce them to the digital world

The premier went on to announce three actions the government is taking to “keep kids safe and healthy” when it comes to cellphones, social media and internet content at schools.

The announcement includes three “concrete” actions to keep kids and young adults safe:

  • restricting the use of cellphones in schools
  • launching services to remove images from the internet and pursue predators
  • legislation to hold social media companies accountable for the harm they have caused

The province is using research that says frequent cellphone usage presents a significant risk to young people, including exposure to sextortion, cyberbullying, addictive algorithms and predators.

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New school policies will be in place by the start of the next school year, where school districts will have the ability to restrict cellphone use while on their properties.

“Having cellphones in the classroom can be a distraction from the kind of focused learning we want kids to experience at school,” said Rachna Singh, the province’s minister of education and child care.

“There also is a time and a place for cellphones, including when they support student accessibility purposes.

“By learning in a safe school environment how to use their cellphones responsibly and respectfully, including when to put them away, students will be better able to develop healthy habits.”

Students will also have access to more digital literacy training, which will teach them the knowledge and tools to stay safe from online predators.

On Monday, two new services will be launched to help people stop or prevent the distribution of explicit images and pursue damages from the perpetrators.

Also in spring 2024, new legislation will be introduced to hold companies accountable for the harm their products may cause the public.

Click to play video: 'Elk Island public school division bans cellphones'
Elk Island public school division bans cellphones

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