Senator files bill banning smartphone, gadget use during class hours

By Wilnard Bacelonia

June 10, 2024, 10:34 am

<p><em>(File photo)</em></p>

(File photo)

MANILA – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Monday said he filed a bill seeking to prohibit the use of mobile devices and electronic gadgets in schools during class hours to minimize distractions and enhance learning.

In a news release, Gatchalian said Senate Bill (SB) No. 2706, or the Electronic Gadget-Free Schools Act mandates the Department of Education to establish guidelines for the prohibition, which covers learners from kindergarten to senior high school in both public and private institutions, including teachers.

While acknowledging the potential of these devices for learning and teaching, the lawmaker emphasized its negative impact on academic performance, especially among basic education learners, and the prevalence of cyberbullying.

"First, it affects performance directly as greater use of a phone while studying is correlated with (a) greater negative impact on grades or scores. Second, it affects performance indirectly because the learners' skills and cognitive abilities needed for academic success are also negatively affected by excessive phone use," Gatchalian said.

The senator cited an analysis from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2022 which indicates that 8 in 10 learners aged 15 reported being distracted by smartphone use during class.

The same number of learners also reported being distracted by other learners' smartphone use during class hours.

PISA results also reveal that distraction due to smartphone use during class is correlated with a decrease in performance of about 9.3 points in mathematics, 12.2 points in science, and 15.04 points in reading.

Gatchalian also noted that the 2023 Global Education Monitoring Report published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization recommended stricter regulation against the use of mobile phones in class.

"The Report found that only 13 percent of countries in the world have laws partially or fully banning mobile phone use in schools, while 14 percent of countries have policies, strategies, or guidelines for the same purpose," he said.

SB 2706, however, provides some exceptions: learning related-exceptions such as classroom presentation or class-based learning activities; health and well-being-related exceptions such as learners with health conditions and requiring the use of mobile devices and electronic gadgets; and exceptions related to managing risks such as emergencies, response to perceived threats or dangers, and during field trips or activities outside school premises.

All public and private basic education institutions, as well as learners, who will fail to comply, shall be subject to appropriate sanctions. (PNA)