Handphone has become indispensable gadget, an absolute necessity for both adults and children. Like every other invention of man, whether or not to allo the use of handphones in Malaysian schools is not an easy yes-or- no issue. This is the dilemma of the authorities. If properly used, the handphone can bring more benefits than harm especially to children. When television first made its debut in the 1960s, everybody imagined that it would have a negative effect on children. Parents fret over their children’s addiction to the ‘idiot box’ and the neglect of their studies.
Their fears were unfounded as they soon found that if strictly contolled, the television was as harmless as the radio or the gramophone. In more recent times, the same anxiety greeted the advent of computers, especially the Internet. Today, the Internet has becomean essential tool and we cannot imagine a life without computers. Like the computers, the handphone has many advantages, while an abuse of it can have disastrous results. Handphones are useful tools of communication. Parents and children can keep in touch with each other and any last mintue change of plans can be conveyed easily without any trouble to either party.
Some children however, cite this as a loss of privacy as parents will have a 24-hour access to their children Parents say the handphone is more than a convenience-it is an essential item that can function as a tracker divece. With it they can monitor their children and check on their whereabouts via satelite. Thus, from whereevr they are, paretns can ensure the safety of thier children and avoid incidents like kidnapping and such crimes. Education Ministry officials, school authorities and many parents believe that allowing handphones in schools would only widen the disparity between the haves and the have-nots among students.
Handphones come in a variety of shapes, colours and function:from generic ones to highly sophisticated ones that double up as camers, video cameras and palm tops. Not every child in school comes from middle or upper class families that can afford to buy each child a handphone. The self esteem of children who do not own a handphone or who possess a basic one wii be affected. Low esteem among students would cause a rift among children. Cliques, jealousy and rivalry would result. This unhealthy situation should not be nurtured in a school.
Instea, the school environment should promote equal opprotunities and equal treatment. Another reason for the strong outcry against allowing studentsto bring handphones to school is the distraction it poses. SMSes, games and ringing tones are some of the distractors that take the students’ attention away from the lesson. Children being children will not be able to resist the temptation of answering calls and sending messages when they should be listening to the teacher or classes, the games available on the phone is something the students would resort to after classes to overcome boredom.
Apart from diverting student’s attention, the handphones can threathen the validity of school examinations. Students may cheat durin examinations via text messages. Information or answers can be passed from one student to the next while examiners may be totally oblivious of the cheating that happen. Finally, even adults find it hard to exercise social etiquette and discretion in the use of handphones, therefore children cannot be expected to do any better. Despite explicit messages in movies threatres, at meetings and at formal meetings, we still hear phones ringing away.
School administrators and discipline teachers would find it difficult to to effectively prohibit students from using their phones during lessons. If Ministry of Education lifts the ban on handphones, schools may come up with new rules or guidelines to control the use of the handphone. Inevitably, teacher will be burdened with the task of monitoring the use and misuse of the handphone. All this is additional stress for teachers who are already loaded with heavy responsibilities. The Malaysian school system has thrived so far even with handphones being banned from schools. Why sudden change of heart?