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Rough Cuts | This ban must be implemented

Here is this snowballing proposition to implement to the letter the ban on the use by school children both in the elementary and high school and in public and private schools from using communications gadgets with emphasis on cellular phones during class hours.

This came about after it was apparent that the Department of Education (DepEd) has been unable to effectively implement its own previous Department Orders to ban the use of the same gadgets. In 1999 the then Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) issued Order No. 70, followed by Order No. 26 in 2000.

These two Department Orders were all banning the use by students of mobile phones during class hours, and for teachers and parents to come up with mechanisms that will govern their children in responsibly using the communications gadget. On November 23, 2003 the successor of DECS, the DepED, issued Department Order No. 83, supposedly to reiterate the mandate of the two previous orders.

Perhaps, in the evaluation of school administrators and parents, the ban did not work. Students still manage to surreptitiously use their cellular phones even during class hours. There were incidents of lewd and obscene pictures being posted by still unidentified up-loaders and viewed by those who have their gadgets in their hands even during class hours.

The latest of such incident of posting in mobile phones of what could be considered as invasion to privacy of female students were those done allegedly by certain graduating males at the Philippine Science High School in Quezon City.

The incident caused strong uproar in the Phil Science campus and most of the parents of students in the premiere government educational institution. Some demanded that the students involved should not be allowed to graduate or given their diplomas. They did not agree with the penalty of community service imposed by the school management. As of now the issue has still to be resolved with finality.

We have no doubt that the issue on strictly implementing the three Department Memorandum Orders banning the use of mobile communications gadget during class hours is again being brought to the fore in view of the opening of classes next week in all public elementary and high schools and also in many of private schools all over the country.

Frankly we are one with those who are espousing the idea of implementing the ban as strictly as possible. We know that allowing students to use their gadget during class hours will all the more add to the distractions that such gadgets are giving to users. In fact even if they are already outside the classrooms more of the students’ hours are used in playing video games, communicating to their friends through group chat or short messages, taking pictures of themselves and posting these on their Facebook page. Study time is already reduced to an average of between 50 to 60 percent.

We also fully agree to the proposition that the teachers and parents must come up with mutually acceptable scheme with which students are not deprived of their means of contact with their parents as well as parents being able to communicate with their school kids.

This arrangement, we believe, appears to be working at the Davao City Special School Elementary Department. From what we learned, it’s being made the rule in the school with affirmation from the parents that cellular phones of students be deposited with the teacher and kept in a secure cabinet when classes begin in the morning. When classes end in the afternoon the students get their gadgets back and from there they are free to use it.

It is our take though, that school administrations must have to make it very clear to the students and parents that irresponsible use of mobile phones, tablets or whatever communications gadget shall have its consequences on the students.

And we find this aspect wanting in official guidelines by the school administration. Also, we have this notion that most parents, especially those who are both working and have limited time at home, are seemingly helpless in instilling discipline on their children to go slow in the use of cellular phones and other modern technology equipment.

But education these days, however, also requires sophisticated means to acquire. And cellular phones have it all as a virtual research and instructional institution. Thus, these gadgets now become more of a compelling need than want.

Unfortunately, communications gadget makers also provide owners alternative use of cellular phones to fight boredom or simply test their technology skills. They install a lot of applications and gadget capability including those that allow access to sites that provide scenes contrary to good morals.

And since the youth sector, specifically students in their elementary and secondary years, are the most vulnerable, attention therefore should be focused on making them responsible users as well as on ensuring that their vulnerability to un-vetted social media sites and applications is protected.

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