Should Quebec ban cellphones in classrooms like Ontario just did?

Click to play video 'To ban or not to ban cellphones in Quebec classrooms?' To ban or not to ban cellphones in Quebec classrooms?
Last week, the Ontario government decided to ban the use of cellphones in classrooms. It's a move some Montreal area school boards are wrestling with. Should cellphones be prohibited in a classroom setting? Global's Dan Spector finds out.

The Lester B. Pearson and English Montreal School Boards do not see themselves instituting a province-wide ban on cellphones in the class room like Ontario has just done.

In Montreal, high school kids use their cellphones a lot on a daily basis.

“My cellphone tells me I watch 12 hours on YouTube a day,” said Royal Vale School Grade 9 student Marc Bertin.

“For the last 10 days, I’ve been 33 hours on Instagram,” said Bertin’s classmate Gabriella Gips.

When it comes to the classroom, should they have to give up the addiction cold turkey? Our neighbours in Ontario have waded into those waters.

Starting next September, the Ontario government will ban cellphones in all public school classrooms. There will be exceptions: teachers using phones as part of lessons, kids with special needs
and medical reasons.

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READ MORE: Ontario to ban cellphones from classrooms next year

“Making a province-wide ban like they did in Ontario is kind of foolish,” said Bertin.

At Montreal’s English-language school boards, the idea of a ban conjures up bad memories.

“I have lived through trying to ban cell phones in school,” said Lester B. Pearson assistant director general Tom Rhymes, who used to be principal at Riverdale High School. “It made for a very acrimonious relationship with students.”

“Ten years ago we would say ‘we see it, we hear it, we take it,'” said Royal Vale principal Nathalie Lacroix-Maillette. “My desk was buzzing with cellphones we had confiscated.”

Instead of a hard ban, teaching students when and when not to use their cellphones has become part of the curriculum in both school boards.

“When we were banning and controlling, it’s very time consuming, rather than explaining to kids that when their on their cellphone they’re being distracted,” said Lacroix-Maillette.

READ MORE: Kingston residents, students react to cellphone ban in Ontario schools

Phones and other tech like iPads and Chromebooks are encouraged when teachers deem them useful to the day’s lesson at Royal Vale. Kids say they generally know when they are not supposed to take their phones out.

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“If you ban something, that often brings an even stronger defiance,” said student Emilia Martinez. “If cell phones are banned from the class, kids are more likely to rebel.”

Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge told Global News he has no plans to implement any kind of province-wide cellphone ban in the classroom and that that decisions should remain in the hands of the teachers. The minister pointed to educating students about healthy smart phone use.

The EMSB and LBPSB seem satisfied with how things are going in the classroom and their efforts to teach students to be better “digital citizens.”

“We have very few detentions that we give for cellphones I have to say,” said Lacroix-Maillette.

Perhaps healthy smart phone use in general, however, is a work in progress.