High school students react to Ontario’s new cell phone and vaping rules in classrooms

(Courtesy of Nabneel Sarma)

On April 28, the Ontario government announced new policies that further cracked down on cell phone and vaping distractions in school. 

At the start of the next school year in September, the newly introduced laws will require elementary school students from kindergarten to Grade 6 to keep their phones on silent and away from the classroom during school hours. For middle school and high school students in Grades 7-12, cell phones will be banned during class time unless the teacher gives permission for students to use them. Repeat violations of the cell phone ban could result in suspension.

At Northview Heights Secondary School, a few blocks away from York, there were various different reactions from students in response to this news.

“I think [the bans] would be helpful,” says Simon, a student in Grade 10. “It would cancel out the temptation to go on my phone because I wouldn’t be allowed to go on it.”

“As a student, I think it’s necessary, although it will probably impair our ability to access our devices a little bit,” states Andrew, a Grade 12 student. “I’ve seen a lot of times in my class where the teacher’s talking and half the class is all on their phones and they’re not looking at anything important. It’s like TikTok or some other social media.” 

Henry, a student in Grade 12, says that he has mixed feelings about these regulations. “If you have major distraction issues with the phone, I can see how it’s helpful. Otherwise, for the vast majority of people, it wouldn’t really make a difference. If there’s a lesson going on, or if it’s independent work, people would go on their phones. But generally, I don’t really see many people on their phone anyway. I don’t think much would really happen.”

The new rules also include that social media platforms would be prohibited from all school board networks and devices to discourage cell phone distraction, and student report cards will now include comments on distraction levels in class.

“I don’t know how they’re going to block out social media platforms,” says Henry. “I feel that it would be pretty easily regulated from kindergarten to Grade 6, but after that, it gets much harder to regulate. Students would easily find ways to circumvent the firewall. People don’t just use social media just to doom scroll. They also just use it to contact people.”

“I’d say the regulations would just be a pretty annoying inconvenience. Otherwise, I don’t think it’s going to be as drastic,” Henry adds. 

Andrew believes that it’s good for parents to know their student’s distraction level on their report card. “I don’t think there would be any negative downsides to that.”

For Simon, he doesn’t understand why parents should see them. “I don’t see why they would need to know it. The teacher can speak to the student about it.”

In addition to the strict measures on cellphones in classrooms, the new school regulations also state that vapes and cigarettes will be banned from classrooms altogether. Anyone who is caught carrying them in school will be required to hand them in to an educator and have their parents be notified of the incident.

When it comes to vaping in Northview Heights, Henry and Simon both agree that it has been a big problem at the school.

“You walk into the washrooms and it’s always just vaping,” says Simon.

“You can’t go to the washroom anymore without someone smelling up the place with their vaping chemicals and all that,” adds Henry. “I find vaping to be pretty disgusting, so I see some positives for the vaping regulations. We have to wait and see if the regulations are effective.”

While Andrew shares this sentiment, he also feels that the new regulations could be difficult to enforce.

“Everyone knows the punishments of vaping. But I don’t think anyone’s actually scared of them — it’s not like they’re gonna get caught. There might have to be something like detectors or hall monitors doing surprise check-ups in the washrooms so that people are more scared of it happening. Right now, nobody’s scared of these laws, so they aren’t following it, because they don’t think they’re gonna get caught.”

Andrew believes that one of the biggest issues in the classroom right now is distraction due to social media.

“I hear a lot of my classmates say that something like this would be hard to enforce. Personally, I don’t think so. I think it shouldn’t be too hard. A teacher should be able to notice when a student’s been looking at their phone for five minutes. It’s alright if a student looks at their phone for a time, or if they just look at their phone for a couple of seconds to check something.”

When it comes to whether or not these regulations would be enforced properly, Henry and Simon both hope for the best. 

“I think I could see some change,” Henry says. “But we have to wait and see what happens — if we notice any difference.”

(Courtesy of Nabneel Sarma)

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By Nabneel Sarma


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