Israeli Policy on the Use of Mobile Phones in Schools
Mobile phones are being ever-increasingly used by children and adolescents. Beyond the concern about the possible hazardous health effects of using this technology, the use of mobile phones has social and behavioral consequences that apply within schools.
In the school environment there are a number of sources of exposure to non-ionizing radiation, among them the power grid, access points for wireless Internet connection, and mobile phones. While the power grid and wireless access points to the Internet are part of the school infrastructure, mobile phones are a source of radiation that in principle can be controlled, and are the responsibility of the user (the student/ the staff). Moreover, in contrast to radiation from the power grid and the wireless Internet, most of the exposure to radiation emitted by the mobile phone applies to the user him/herself, because of its proximity to the user's body.
It should be noted that the student population, children and adolescents, is unique in its characteristics.
Position paper on the issue of electromagnetic radiation in the student environment (18.11.2010)
Illustration of a mobile phone
in the form of a bookshelf
In November 2010, a position paper on "Electromagnetic radiation in the student environment" was published. This was formulated at the request of MK Dov Hanin, following a discussion by the Knesset Committee for Internal Affairs and Environmental Protection.
The purpose of the position paper was to summarize the various types of exposures to non-ionizing radiation from man-made sources, to which the student in the educational system is exposed, and to lead to a comprehensive discussion on the steps to be taken to reduce this exposure and protect student health.
The guiding principle in formulating the document was that there was an ethical, moral and legal obligation on the part of the educational system and the State to protect its children's health, by applying the precautionary principle within the educational system as well. The document emphasized that the student population consisted of children and adolescents who constitute a sub-population with unique characteristics. In addition, it was noted that most of the radiation emitted by mobile phones affected the individual user and not the environment.
On the subject of mobile phones the position paper noted that from a review of the literature published up to 2010, it appeared that there may be an increased risk of developing tumors following the use of mobile phones (it was pointed out that the sample populations in these studies did not include children and adolescents, who may be considered more sensitive to electromagnetic radiation,). Consequently, many national and international bodies (including the Israeli Ministry of Health) have recommended adopting the precautionary principle, emphasizing the particular importance of this principle with regard to children and adolescents.
The position paper concludes that this principle should be applied, as recommended by the Ministry of Health, to the educational system. Accordingly, the preferences of the student and his/her parents for using the mobile phone should be balanced with the social and health effects of this use, in particular by instilling correct usage habits. Because technologies that interfere with reception may in some cases increase the intensity of radiation emitted by the mobile phones, it was decided not to introduce these technologies within the schools.
The following are the operational measures suggested by the position paper regarding the use of mobile phones at schools:
- Carrying out an age-specific information program aimed at providing information on proper and educated ways of using the mobile phone
- Monitoring the information program by performing a survey before and after the implementation of the program, to evaluate its effectiveness
- Examining the possibility of installing landline telephones at schools, to enable students to contact their parents in case of need, without using the mobile phone
- Examining the possibility of designating 'calling areas' within schools for the use of mobile phones
- Applying these principles first and foremost by the staff of the educational institutions. Ensuring that teachers should use their mobile phones only in staff rooms or in the designated areas.
In addition, recommendations unrelated to exposure to radiation were included to ensure safe use of mobile phones by the students outside the school grounds:
- Recommendation to the Ministry of Transport to completely prohibit the use of mobile phones (including use of handsets or earphones) by young drivers.
- Recommendation to the Ministry of Transport to completely prohibit the use of mobile phones by public transport drivers, including school transport services.
Policy of the Ministry of Education
Students using mobile phones in the school courtyard
In general, the Ministry of Education adopted the principles outlined in the position paper and stated that a balance should be struck between the choices of the student and his/her parents to use the mobile phone, and the health and social consequences of such use, especially through correct usage habits. The specific policy of the Ministry of Education was expressed in various CEO Circulars on the subject of non-ionizing radiation, in particular those dealing with mobile phones.
The general recommendations in the circular are that each school should apply an age-adapted program based on the Ministry's program, to provide information on the subject of electromagnetic radiation and radiofrequency radiation (wireless networks, cordless phones, mobile phones, etc.) so as to raise the knowledge of the subject. School Directors and teleprocessing officers are responsible for communicating the information and required knowledge to the teaching staff in schools, in order to implement the program.
This circular included guidelines and recommendations to teach correct and prudent usage habits in using mobile phones. Among others, this circular published recommendations for the Ministry of Education concerning the educated use of cell phones that included the following:
- Reduction of call duration and total number of calls
- Preference for texting rather than calling
- Use of corded earphones when calling, and holding the device away from the body.
- Designation of areas within schools for the use of mobile phones, with allocation of scheduled and accepted times for this purpose within the school grounds.
- Total avoidance of use of mobile phones for any purpose in these designated areas, at any time during lessons or other planned educational activities
- Introduction of public telephones in schools to enable students to contact parent in when necessary.
- Avoidance of use of mobile phones at night, leading to sleep disturbances
- Avoidance of use of mobile phones where reception is poor or lacking (e.g. in elevators)
- Avoidance of carrying the phone close to the body (in a pocket, on a strap around the neck, etc.).
In April 2015 the Ministry of Education published an update to the previous Circular on this subject (2009). Among other reasons, the Circular was updated in the light of the ever-changing educational reality, as reflected by technological developments that require finding solutions for educational institutions.
Paragraph 3.3 of the section dealing with violent incidents, concerns "the use of technology in activities inside and outside the school and aspects of online infringement ". This paragraph states:
- Schools must determine network behavior policies, formulate school regulations, and encourage personal responsibility in using technology, to prevent offenses.
- The school management is entitled to prohibit the use of mobile phones at school, or restrict their use, in accordance with staff directives. School policy should be in line with the guidelines of this Circular.
- It is recommended to refrain from bringing mobile phones to school (in line with the necessary precautions required regarding exposure to cellular radiation, and so that the devices will not serve as a reason for thefts and lead indirectly to violent acts at school).
In all cases where a school decides to allow the use of portable devices for necessary pedagogical purposes, the users should be taught to neutralize the cellular component and use only the Wi-Fi component (as detailed in the CEO Circular entitled "Introduction of communications equipment and end user-devices in schools – health and social consequences", outlining the restrictions on the use of the wireless network in schools.
In all cases where devices are brought to school, the students and their parents must be informed that the school is not responsible for any damage to the device, or its loss or theft.
Moreover, according to this Circular: The use of personal technological devices (mobile phones, cameras, tablets, etc.) during lessons is permitted only for educational-learning activities designated as such by the staff.
- The use of personal technologies in general or mobile phones in particular during lessons or exams is prohibited, unless an instruction for a designated educational activity has been given by the staff.
- Also, the general rule is that the devices should be kept in the student's bag and switched off. They should not be placed anywhere on the school desk. Use of the devices during activities outside the school grounds will be subject to the instructions of the staff.
- Use of mobile phones for photographing or recording during lessons is totally prohibited.
In the context of this Circular, there is a graded range of responses in cases of infringement of the regulations – for instance, in the event of repeated use of the mobile phone during class when not for educational purposes, responses include, amongst others - renewed guidance: positive reminder guiding the student towards the desired behavior, clarification talks, confiscation of the device by a member of staff, securing it in a safe locked place and returning it at the end of the school day after informing the parents, or returning it directly to the parents at the discretion of the School Director, summoning the parents, writing a paper on the subject, and mentioning the infringement on the school report.
- Position paper on the issue of electromagnetic radiation in the student environment (18.11.2010) - Hebrew (formulated following a discussion by the Knesset Committee for Internal Affairs and Environmental Protection).
- Adaptation of the Ministry of Education to the 21st Century – Integration of communications equipment and computers in schools – health and safety consequences (10.7.2012) (Hebrew)
- Ministry of Education CEO Circular 8.7.2013: "Introduction of Communications Equipment and end-devices at schools – Health and Safety Considerations " (Hebrew)
- Ministry of Education CEO Circular 1.9.2011 - "Educated Use of Mobile phones" (Hebrew)
- Ministry of Education CEO Circular 1.9.2009: "Promotion of a safe atmosphere and coping with violent events in educational institutions" (Hebrew)
- "The screen generation – introduction of smartphones at schools – advantages, disadvantages, contribution to learning and socialization" (Hebrew)