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Cell phones on campus prompt debate
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-03-24 09:01

Education authorities in Baoding, North China's Hebei Province, shocked many parents recently by banning the use of cell phones on campus.

Experts say the city is one of the first in China to drive the modern communication devices out of the classroom, when they are convinced the phones are a disruption to education.

In a notice addressed to all primary and junior high school students and their parents, education authorities said students were not allowed to take cell phones to school and empowered teachers to confiscate the phones until parents came to reclaim them.

The notice, which takes effect this week, also forbids teachers from using cell phones in class.

Though many teachers applaud the decision, saying without the high-tech gadgets, the students will concentrate more on their studies, some parents say it is "arbitrary" to ban mobile phones altogether.

"A mobile phone may distract the student's attention in class, but many children need it for emergencies, such as a sudden illness at school," said a father of a 10-year-old boy. "And sometimes I need to check if my son is safe on his way home after school." Administrators say a school official could notify a parent of a child's illness.

For most Chinese children, a school day lasts from 8 am to 5 pm. Many parents worry about the safety of their children on the way to and from school because few schools provide bus services.

"A cell phone can help young children get in touch with their parents in case they get lost or injured," said a mother whose 8-year-old also has a cell phone.

But for most children, a mobile phone is more for fun.

Li Nie, a student in Lanzhou city, capital of the Northwest China's Gansu Province, said he got his first cell phone when he entered senior high school last year.

The 15-year-old said he calls his parents sometimes, but more often uses the phone to play games and send jokes and pictures downloaded from the Internet.

Li's mother also holds that it is reasonable for a child to own a cell phone. "Our family can afford it, and we need it to check how he's doing at school," she said.

An online poll has found 52 per cent of the minor users send short messages, 23 per cent play games and 8 per cent surf the Internet with cell phones. Though a call on the mobile phone costs at least twice as much as that on a fixed phone, over 40 per cent of the students surveyed say they often chat with friends on the cell phone.

Many teachers worry mobile phones will be harmful to the children because some short messages they send around contain adult content, and some students even cheat during exams by sending messages.

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