Can Banning Smartphones Curb Childhood Digital Addiction? One School Aims to Find Out

A group of teachers and parents at a Japanese school have decided to ban children from using phones after 9 p.m.

A school in Japan has banned 13,000 children from using their cell phones after 9 p.m. The decision came after parents and teachers realized how much the devices were interfering in their lives. (Photo: Reuters/YuanLin Koh)

Mar 29, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Liana Aghajanian is TakePart's weekend editor. Her work has appeared in ForeignPolicy.com, BBC.com, Los Angeles Times, and TheAtlantic.com.

In a bid to curb digital oversaturation, a school in Japan has banned its students from using their cell phones after 9 p.m.

The rule will be implemented in Aichi Prefecture starting next month and was introduced by a local group of teachers, social workers, and police, according to the Japan Times.

Fushitoshi Ohashi, a spokesperson for the group, told the paper that late-night communication between kids on messaging apps is causing serious issues. When students receive a message, they feel an overwhelming obligation to reply, which leads to never-ending chats that cut into sleep time and affect mental health as well:

“They feel they have to reply because their friends will ask why they aren’t responding if they don’t,” Ohashi said. “When this happens, they can’t study even if they want to because they are preoccupied with communicating...it’s hard to just ignore (messages).”

Though the rule is being left up to each family to enforce, school officials might have good reason to limit smartphone usage.

Japan is the top-grossing market for apps, passing the U.S. last year. Officials recently conducted a survey on children and smartphone use—the first of its kind in the country—and the results revealed that more than 70 percent of adults are worried about the dangers of letting children use smartphones.

Not everyone is in favor of the cell phone ban, however, as Japan Daily Press reports:

Most netizens have reacted rather negatively to this new rule, saying that Aichi Prefecture has no visible means of enforcing it. The intention behind the rule is good, they say, but the enforcement of it will only create more problems and questions, rather than results.

Perhaps rules limiting something so ingrained in our modern psyche might backfire, but Japan isn’t the only country with concerned parents and officials attempting to outlaw digital devices for kids.

In The Huffington Post Cris Rowan, a pediatric occupational therapist, outlined several reasons why handheld devices, including smartphones, should be banned for children under 12. The devices, Rowan said, have been known to cause sleep deprivation, obesity, and mental illness. She also cited technology overuse as a causal factor in rising rates in child depression, bipolar disorder, problematic child behavior, and more.

Limiting the use of technology in children’s lives is also something many pediatricians recommend. According to new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids shouldn’t be spending more than two hours a day on smartphones, computers, or TV watching, but that’s not to say that those guidelines are being implemented.

Children are beginning to use technology at surprisingly young ages.

A recent study, "Children's Media Use in America in 2013," from San Francisco–based nonprofit Common Sense Media, revealed that nearly 40 percent of children under two years of age have used smartphones and tablets. Two years ago that number was only 10 percent.

As some in the U.S. advocate for limitations on technology for children, around 13,000 students will be potentially handing over their cellphones to their parents in the evening in Japan. The success of the ban on an object so intertwined with our daily lives and increasingly those of people of all ages, however, remains to be seen.