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CAQ rejects motion to regulate cell phone use at school

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The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) blocked a Parti Québécois (PQ) motion Tuesday calling for the regulation of cell phone use in elementary and high school classrooms.

PQ MNA for Matane-Matapédia, Pascal Bérubé, who has a teaching background, hoped to see this regulation in place before the start of the school year.

His motion at the National Assembly argued that cell phones harm student concentration and motivation.

It noted that other jurisdictions have adopted measures on cell phone use in schools and observed positive effects on student socialization.

These measures also help reduce bullying on social networks, the motion claims.

The text was presented jointly with the Liberal MNA for Saint-Laurent, Marwah Rizqy, the Québec solidaire MNA for Mercier, Ruba Ghazal, and the independent MNA for Vaudreuil, Marie-Claude Nichols.

To win this support, the PQ was required to replace the word "prohibit" with "encadrer" (frame).

Still, the government opposed the motion through its deputy House leader, Mathieu Lévesque, who rose to declare: "No consent."

Last month, 92 per cent of the 7,000 teachers surveyed by the Fédération des syndicats de l'enseignement (FSE) union said they supported a ban on cell phones in the classroom, except for certain educational activities.

FSE president Josée Scalabrini told the Journal de Québec that teachers wanted to reduce classroom distractions and were increasingly concerned about being filmed without their knowledge by students.

"It's a struggle," she said. "There were years when it was the cap in the classroom or the gum in the mouth, but now it's the cell phone."

In the past, Quebec Education Minister Bernard Drainville has indicated that he's "open to considering" a general ban.

In 2021, several experts highlighted screens' harmful effects on eyesight, sleep and weight during the Consultation sur la santé des jeunes et l'utilisation des écrans (consultation on youth health and screen use).

But screens can also have benefits, experts said; for example, cell phones at school can enable various teaching approaches.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 31, 2023.

 

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