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Japan: Law Banning Cell Phones for Kids Passed in Ishikawa

Ever since Ishikawa prefecture (500 km/315 miles north of Tokyo) passed the first of a kind regulation in the nation to limit cell phone usage for kids and tweens on June 29th, the blogosphere has been buzzing with what's appropriate and what's not for kids and cell phones. The “Ishikawa Children Comprehensive Act” [ja, pdf] Article 33 reads “Guardians must try not to let their students who are in elementary, middle, and specially supported schools have cell phones except in case of disaster prevention, crime prevention and any other special purposes.” The law goes into effect on January 1st, 2010.

Chuei at Mainichi Blog doubts the effectiveness of this regulation.

これによって、「子供の携帯電話を解約しよう」とか考える親は余りいないだろうね。大体、携帯電話でもパソコンでもウェブ閲覧やEメールができるのに、何で携帯電話だけ規制なんだろうね?携帯電話の通話機能がいけないとも思えない。

家庭用の火災報知器を設置する義務も、罰則が特にないために設置が進んでいないようだし、この条例が施行された所で効果のほどは知れているだろう。多分今後携帯電話が絡んだ小中学生の事件が発生した時の県の言い逃れ(学校に責任なし)とか、そういうことに利用されそうな条例だ。

I bet no parents would think of canceling the children’s cell phone contracts because of this. Why only regulate cell phones when you can e-mail and surf the web on either cell phones or computers? It’s hard to believe that the law is after the phone calling feature of the cell phones.

I don’t expect much effects of this law because there is no particular punishments or fines just like the rule obligating the installment of the fire alarms in homes. Perhaps, this law can be used in the future in cases such as when incidents involving cell phones and elementary and middle school students happen in which the prefectural government can excuse itself, (i.e. no responsibilities for the school).

Usagi Inu at Manya Hompo suggests prepaid phones will solve all the problems.

私が思うには、ネットに繋がらないプリペイドの携帯電話を持たせたらいいと思います。プリペイド携帯は決められた度数を越えて使う事ができないため、使いすぎを防止するにはいいと思います。
しかし、不景気の時勢に親が子どもの携帯電話の料金を払うなんて時代が変わりました。自分が子どもの頃は携帯もなく、親に連絡する時は小銭を持ち歩いて公衆電話を探していましたけど、今では公衆電話を探すのに苦労するから、子どもに携帯電話を持たせるのも仕方ないのでしょうか。

I think the answer is to give a prepaid phone without Internet access. Since you can’t go over the limited usage on those phones, it prevents over usage.

However, the time has changed for parents to be paying for cell phones for children during a recession. When I was a child, there were no cell phones. I had to look for a payphone with change if I needed to contact my parents. Well, nowadays it’s hard to locate payphones so it may be inevitable to give cell phones to kids.

Mobile advocate member #1 of SATT which provides educational materials including online learning says he is disappointed with the law.

持つこと自体を禁止してしまうと、たとえば「公教育の中にケータイを取り入れる」といった試み自体ができなくなってしまいます。

If you ban to have a cell phone itself, it kills an opportunity to attempt things like incorporating cell phones in the public education curriculum.

He adds the lawmakers should have focused on the possibility rather than limits.

ケータイは、日本においてこれだけ普及し、データ通信部分も含め世界に誇れる技術の固まりなので「制限」から入るのではなく、「何ができるのか」といった可能性に目を向けてほしかったと思います。

Because cell phones are so popular in Japan and the technology, including data communication, is state-of-the-art in the world, I wish they would have focused on a possibility of “what we could do with it,” rather than “llimiting it.”

This father of two sons, Kimme can’t understand why kids need cell phones so early.

我が家は長男が携帯を持ったのは大学に入ってからだ。次男はプリペイド携帯を持たせているが、インターネットを利用出来るようなプランには一切なっていない。いや、別に長男にしろ次男にしろ、自分でバイトして携帯代金払えるなら使って良いと私は思っている。
でも、小学校や中学校の間ははっきり言えば、必要ないと思っていたりする。こんな条例が出来る前から、我が家じゃ小中学生に携帯持たせる気なんてさらさらない訳だ。
でも、条例が出来ちゃうぐらいなんだから、持ってる子供もそれなりにいるって事なんだろう。
防犯の目的で携帯を持つって意味が個人的にはわからない。いや、確かに迷子になって携帯持ってたら探せたりするかもしれない。不審者に連れ去られたら連絡が出来るのかもしれない。塾の帰りが10時とかだったりするのかもしれない。
でも、防犯のタメに携帯を持たなくちゃならない社会の方が間違っていると私は思うのだけれど。
それよりも、小中学生に携帯電話を持たせる事で引き受けるリスクの方が、よほど大きいとは思わないのだろうか?

My oldest son got a cell phone for the first time when he got into college. We gave his younger brother a prepaid phone, but his plan doesn't have anything fancy like Internet capability. I believe both sons can buy any cell phone plan they want if they are going to work a part-time job and pay the bill by themselves.

However, while in elementary and middle schools there is absolutely no need. Even before this kind of a law passed, we had no intention of giving cell phones to kids so young in my family.

I guess though the fact that such law got enacted means enough kids are given cell phones of their own.

I don’t understand what it means to have a cell phone for crime prevention purposes. Well, if they’re lost, a cell phone may help. Maybe it can help if a child is kidnapped. Or perhaps to let me know they’ll be home at 10 p.m. after a “cram school” (tutoring schools).

But I think the society is wrong if a child has to carry a cell phone for crime prevention purposes.

Conversely, don’t you think it’s a much bigger risk being exposed by giving a cell phone to elementary and middle school kids?

  • http://el-oso.net David Sasaki

    I agree with Chuei. Among the many reasons that such regulation won’t work (or won’t last) is because it is getting increasingly difficult to distinguish between what is a cellphone and what is a “netbook” computer. In a few years I imagine that they’ll be one and the same.

  • http://logged-in.org Diego Casaes

    That’s a very interesting situation.

    I agree that cell phones can be used in education. The possibilities are so many that I can’t actually list them here. I heard for example that some museums and institutions use Nintendo DS to work with education and other types of study techniques. So why should they limit access to children?

    If a school can’t deal with cell phone in education they should ask children to turn off their phones once they enter in class.

    Great article!

    Cheers!

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