Skip to main content

No plan to ban cellphones in Alberta classrooms just yet


Quebec students returned from the Christmas holidays this week to find out they can no longer use cellphones in the classroom unless approved by a teacher for educational purposes.

It makes the province the second to implement such a measure, after Ontario's legislation in 2019.

The directive, which aims to reduce distractions in class, entered into force on Dec. 31, 2023, and applies to public elementary and secondary schools, but it offers teachers flexibility to let students use cellphones for specific pedagogical purposes.

Alberta doesn't plan to do the same just yet.

In a statement to CTV News, Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides says cellphones can be helpful educational tools.

"I also understand there are significant risks and concerns with inappropriate cellphone usage," Nicolaides said.

"I plan to talk more with teachers, parents, students and staff about cellphone usage in our schools and use their advice to help inform any potential next steps."

Alberta does not have a blanket policy but rather allows school divisions and teachers to create their own rules.

The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) says it has not received direction from the province on the use of cellphones in schools.

"We do not have a system-wide CBE cellphone policy but our schools are able to create their own cellphone use policies that work for their school communities," it said in a statement.

"Some schools have phone policies that limit the use of electronics during school hours. These 'away for the day' policies require students to keep phones and other devices in their lockers unless permitted by the teacher for specific learning purposes."

The Calgary Catholic School District says cellphones can be useful educational tools when incorporated into lesson plans.

"Our mobile phone policy is part of Administrative Procedure (AP) 351 Student Code of Conduct. Section 5.5 of the AP mentions the following student behaviour is unacceptable: using a mobile phone or other electronic device when not permitted by a teacher or principal," it said in a statement.

Tom Kersting, an American psychotherapist and author of Disconnected who studies the impacts mobile devices have on children, says cellphones have no place in a school.

He says parents continue to push schools and governments to not implement such bans but he believes one is needed.

"The phone has literally become sort of like the umbilical cord between parent and child," he said.

"Parents become dependent on knowing where their kids are at all times."

An education and psychology professor at McGill University understands the latest ban in Quebec but says cellphones are a cheap and critical education tool.

"One of the hard parts is how is this going to be in any way enforced," Dr. Steven Shaw said.

"We don't want to be phobic of technology. We've seen a lot of people even in Quebec start talking about (how) these cellphone bans haven't gone far enough. And I'm a little cautious about that."

The Alberta Teachers' Association says it wants to be involved in any future changes to legislation.

"The impact of cellphone use in the classroom has been of interest to Alberta's teachers for years," said president Jason Schilling in a statement.

"Since it can have both positive and negative impacts on learning, we hope that any formal decision regarding the use of this technology in our classrooms be done with meaningful consultation with teachers and school communities."

In Ontario, teachers' unions have lamented that their province's 2019 ban is not being enforced and that cellphones pop up routinely in classrooms.

(With files from The Canadian Press) Top Stories

Stay Connected