Mayor of Osaka wants to legally control when kids can and can’t use smartphones in their own home


55-year-old politician thinks kids are ditching school because they’re spending too much time on their phones.

As the mayor of Osaka, a city of more than 2.6 million residents, Ichiro Matsui has a lot of people to look out for. But during a press conference at city hall on January 15, it was the children he was thinking of.

Specifically, Matsui is concerned about kids who are aren’t attending their classes. Truancy is a complicated problem, and not always a matter of plain laziness or lack of gumption on youngsters’ part. Apathetic teachers, impractical lesson plan that fail to engage young minds, and bullying by classmates can all convince kids that going to school is the last thing they want to do that day. During the press conference, though, Matsui said that he thinks more kids would attend class if the law forced them to get off their smartphones.

“What if we were to enact laws barring children from using smartphones past a certain time at night, or other ordinances?” Matsui mused. The 55-year-old politician also said that he’s instructed the Osaka Municipal Board of Education to investigate the potential effectiveness time-based bans and other smartphone-use restrictions would have on boosting class attendance.

Matsui’s singling out of smartphones comes only a few days after legislators in Kagawa’s Prefectural Assembly unveiled their draft of a new law that would prohibit elementary, middle, and high school students from playing video games for more than one hour on weekdays and more than 90 minutes on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. A key difference though is that while video games are first and foremost an entertainment medium, smartphones, by providing access to the Internet’s vast wealth of respected periodicals, scholarly literature, and instructional videos, are arguably as much a learning tool as a toy.

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▼ Ostensibly a ban would also prohibit young people from talking or listening to music on their smartphones, but would allow them to do such activities with flip phones or MP3 players.

The mayor didn’t elaborate on exactly how he felt smartphone use was contributing to truancy, but his concern about the devices being used at night suggests he thinks that kids are ditching school because they’re sleepy. That seems like an unlikely scenario, though, considering they’d either have to be snoozing at home, with their parents’ blessing, or waking up, heading out the door, and finding somewhere else to catch some Z’s instead of going to school.

Matsui did recognize, however, that enforcing a ban, as well as handing down criminal penalties to offenders (either the children themselves or their parents), would be difficult. “It would likely be an ideological law, but it is probably important for us to enact such an ordinance,” he asserted.

Incidentally, Matsui’s being born in 1964 means that he was around for the cries that society was on the brink of ruin because of such wicked forms of entertainment as rock music, action movies, and video games, but maybe he thinks we were just lucky enough to dodge a bullet each of those times.

Source: The Sankei News via Jin
Top image: Pakutaso
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