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Schools Wrestle with Mobile Phone Use

August 27, 2015 13:03

Students are back in school after their month-long summer vacation, and teachers are once again struggling to crack down on the use of mobile phones.


At the discretion of their principals, most middle and high schools collect mobile phones from students in the morning and return them when school finishes at around 5 p.m. to create a quiet learning environment.


But some students try to circumvent the practice by handing in unregistered or broken phones and secretly keeping their functioning ones.


A 27-year-old teacher in a high school in Dongnae, Busan struggles every morning to ferret out tricksters. She randomly selects four phones from the 35 that students turn in and switches them on to see if they are in fact in use.

A case for storing smartphones in class at a high school in Seoul

But students again try to beat the controls by removing the SIM card. Many complain that they cannot understand why the school has to take their phones away for the entire day.


A 17-year-old high school girl in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, said, "Teachers think we only use phones for texting, but you can use them to look up English words in the online dictionary, or you can watch online lessons. It only prompts us to revolt against such measure."


"Rather than teaching students how to use their phones responsibly, teachers simply take our property away from us," she added.


The Ministry of the Gender Equality and Family carried out a poll of 1.42 million students nationwide in May and found that 10.6 percent are in a high risk group for smartphone addiction.


Last year, a high school student filed a petition with the National Human Rights Commission of Korea to complain that the school's policy to limit students' use of mobile phones during the day is excessive. The commission ruled in favor of the student and declared that the practice is indeed a violation of their rights.


Jung Keun-sik at Seoul National University said, "If students feel policy regarding use of smartphones in school is unjust and the school feels it is impossible to control students properly, we need a process of negotiations and agreement that students too can get on board with."

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