Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Minister, leave the kids alone !

The decision by the government in the state of Karnataka in India to ban mobile phones, for school kids under 16, is quite thoughtless. As Bangalore, the capital city of Karnataka and a technology hub, gets increasingly unsafe, as traffic gets unpredictable, and traffic jams are frequent, it is both reassuring and necessary for kids to be able to communicate with their parents.

A parent I know in Bangalore was quite distressed that in future she would not be able to communicate with her kid while in school. She told me she has found a work-around. "If they will not let my kid buy a phone, then maybe I will take an additional connection in my name, and give it to the kid," she said.

If the government is concerned about mobile phone users disturbing the class, and quite rightly so, this is a matter for the discipline committees in each school to handle. Blanket bans don't help, and only reflect the schools' inability to handle discipline.

Getting kids to reduce their use of mobile phones to only emergency calls, to avoid the suspected harmful effects of mobile phones, would be a matter to be handled jointly by parents, teachers, and kids.

We are seeing a similar dispute over the use of mobile phones in schools in New York, according to a report in the New York Times

The people of Bangalore would at this point be better served if the police enforce existing rules such as banning drivers from using mobile phones.

The government should also consider clamping down on pedestrians who negotiate the roads while distractedly talking into their mobile phones. The need to be "connected" seems to be so strong among people in Bangalore, that often folks plug on their headsets and start talking just as they are leaving home. Often car drivers honk at jay walking pedestrian, but the pedestrian cannot hear over the mobile conversation, or is too engrossed in the conversation.

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