The Karnataka State Legislative Assembly’s Women and Child Welfare Committee submitted a report in the legislative assembly on Friday that, among other things, recommended a complete ban of mobile phones in schools and colleges in the state. The reasoning for the recommendation apparently offered by MLA Shakuntala Shetty, Chairperson of the committee, was that it would help stop rapes. She has since distanced herself from the statement and told Deccan Herald that the report never implied that mobile phones cause rape and that the media has been making baseless accusations.

This debate regarding mobile usage in educational institutes is not a new one. Over the next few years this debate will intensify, as more students get access to mobile phones. Mobile phone prices have been on a steady decline, and disposable incomes on the rise, so it’s no surprise that more students have their own mobile phones and carry them to schools and colleges.

A ConsumerLab study released by Ericsson in end-2012 highlighted that mobile phone usage among urban Indian kids was on an exponential rise. 30 million urban youngsters, between the age of 9 and 18, own mobile phones and 3 million of them use mobile broadband on their phones.

The suggestion is absurd

However, a call to ban use of mobile phones in educational institutes is absurd at best. Mobiles have become the primary tool of communication for most of us, and for students it is especially important, since it’s an important means for them to be in touch with their parents, and for parents for to check on their whereabouts. Curriculum pressure forces most students to opt for private tuitions after school hours, and they often return home late in the evening. In such a scenario banning mobile phones would rob students and parents of a means to to stay in touch.

A number of apps have been developed specifically for ensuring safety of the users. These apps have features like GPS tracking, emergency SOS messaging options, etc, which are useful tools for women and children. A blanket ban can never be a solution. Instead what is required is that students should be taught about responsible mobile phone usage.