Over half of Canadians want cell phone use in classrooms banned completely: poll

Over half of Canadians believe students should be banned from using cellphones while in classrooms, according to a new survey. 

A Leger poll conducted between May 3 and 5 revealed that 55% of Canadians think an outright ban on cellphone use in the classroom is needed, while another 35% don’t think cellphones should be permitted in class unless their teacher allows it.

The data published on Monday, comes shortly after the Ontario government announced plans for a province-wide policy to deal with the issue of cellphone use in schools that will take effect in the 2024-25 school year.

“It’s rare to see such a strong consensus on a particular issue,” said SecondStreet.org spokesperson Dom Lucyk. “It’s clear ‒ whether it’s a total ban or something slightly more permissive, Canadians think cell phones are a distraction and should be restricted in classrooms.”

A small minority of respondents, 5%, said they think students should be allowed to use their cellphones in class. 

Respondents aged 35 years and older were more likely to respond in favour of restricting cellphone use in the classroom while those 18 to 34 years old were more likely to disagree. 

Canadians over the age of 55 years were felt the strongest about a ban in schools, with 63% responding in favour of keeping devices out of the classroom.

Those most in favour of an outright ban were in Quebec, with 68% calling for their removal, while respondents in B.C. were the least opposed to the ban, at 48%.

Opposition to cellphone use in classrooms unless permitted by a teacher was lowest in Quebec at 40% and highest in Alberta and B.C. at 40%.

In Ontario, the only province to announce coming restrictions to cellphone use in classrooms, saw 50% of respondents in favour of the ban, with 39% saying their use should be acceptable upon their teacher’s discretion. 

Ontario’s policy takes a hybrid model of both approaches, with students in kindergarten through Grade 6 having phones completely removed from the classroom and students in Grade 7 and above allowed to use them with a teacher’s permission.

If students are caught using their phones, they will have to hand them over to staff and their parents will be notified.

“We have heard loud and clear from parents and teachers alike that cellphones in classrooms are distracting kids from learning,” said Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce in a statement released last month.

“When it comes to cell phones, our policy is ‘out of sight and out of mind,’ as we get students back to the basics by restoring focus, safety and common sense back in Ontario schools.”

Social media sites will be banned from all school networks and devices under the new policy as well. 

The government will also ban recording and sharing videos or photos of individuals without explicit permission. 

Paige MacPherson, associate director of education policy at the Fraser Institute previously told True North that the research around phone use in the classroom and declining test scores, especially with math, is crystal clear.

“Just having the presence of a smartphone in a kid’s pocket actually serves to distract them  enough to impact their cognitive ability and ultimately affect their math scores in particular,” she said. “The research on this is so clear that they really shouldn’t be avoiding it,” she said. “Kids just do not have the brain ability to not be distracted by this.”

Alberta is currently holding consultations on what policy its provincial government will take on the issue. 

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