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Between freedom and discipline in smartphones

Posted July. 25, 2017 07:25,   

Updated July. 25, 2017 07:54


When is the best time to buy a smartphone for your kids? If you are thinking about this, you can consider Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ case. He did not buy a smartphone for his children – Jennifer, Rory and Phoebe - until they turned 14. They complained by saying that all of their friends had one but he never allowed them to have one. He banned using a smartphone during meal time, and from in the evening until going to bed. It was a discipline to teach the immature children how to discipline themselves.

His philosophy in education largely stemmed from how he grew up. His father, a lawyer, never turned on TV during weekdays to help him make reading a habit and think by himself. Instead, he talked with his son over meals. What about Steve Jobs who developed iPhones and iPads? He said, when he was alive, "They haven't used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home."

While there are concerns about youth’s heavy use of a smartphone, there is no silver bullet. Some schools ban students from carrying and using a smartphone, but this will be challenged. Teachers will not be allowed to seize smartphones from students, according to the draft of a three-year plan on students’ human rights issue released by the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education on Monday. There is a backlash. Many students are already glued to a smartphone all day long, hampering their concentration and some of them show signs of addiction.

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family unveiled a survey result in May that around 135,000 students out of 1.41 million primary and secondary school students in Korea heavily rely on smartphones. The urgent goal of the ministry is to find how to rescue the smartphone-addicted kids. Is it reasonable that Seoul Education Superintendent Cho Hee-yeon, who is running for another term next year, infringes teachers’ rights to guide students at their discretion and judgment in the name of students’ human rights? Did Gates and Jobs who made the world smart apply the strict discipline because they did not respect their children’s human rights? Discipline is a value that is as important as freedom.