Vancouver School Board defers vote on cell phone restrictions

B.C.’s Premier has announced school districts will need to restrict cellphone use in classrooms by September, saying the devices are impacting the education and wellbeing of kids.

A motion to restrict cellphone use in Vancouver public schools has been delayed, after the school board was set to vote on the matter Monday.

The board has deferred the debate to a later date in May, due to last-minute changes to the wording.

The motion, brought forward by ABC Vancouver trustee and school board chair Victoria Jung, proposed that students from Kindergarten to Grade 6 be required to keep phones “on silent and out of sight for the entire school day,” unless they get permission from an educator.

“They’re distracting, they impact development, impact social and emotional skills, and it’s important that we put guidelines in place to help foster healthy environments,” Jung said Monday.

“I think it’s important to teach critical skills around social media, around TikTok, and other apps that kids are addicted to, and a lot of adults, as well. So this motion is a step toward that.”

She previously said it’s “important for Vancouver to be a leader in this field,” adding experience has shown that dealing with devices in class “is often a complex matter.”

The motion came after the province announced in January that school districts would be required to implement new guidelines for device usage and social media access in schools. This was part of enhanced measures to keep children safe from “online threats,” after a promise Premier David Eby made to a family affected by online extortion.

Restrictions around cell phone use were recently introduced in public schools in Ontario. Starting the next school year, students in Kindergarten to Grade 6 will be required to keep phones on silent and out of sight for the entire school day unless explicitly permitted by an educator, while students in Grades 7 to 12 will see cellphones banned during class time.

Further, social media websites will be removed from all Ontario school networks and devices, and report cards will include comments on students’ distraction levels in class.

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