The inhabitants of Seine-Port, a French town near Paris, have recently been asked to vote in a referendum on the use of cellphones in public spaces. With 146 votes against 126, the outcome remained uncertain until the very end but the local inhabitants have decided: cellphones shall no longer be permitted in public spaces. In return, the mayor will create a sports center and a cinema for children and teenagers.
With 272 voters and around 2,000 inhabitants, the participation rate in the referendum could certainly be up for questioning. However, those who cared to express their opinion have decided, the public space of Seine-Port will look a lot different in the future.
“I was expecting more of a difference. It’s so intrusive. People get the impression that we’re meddling in their lives. I don’t want that! But there clearly is a public health problem at play. We have to help them”, mayor Vincent Paul-Petit commented after the vote.
As soon as the mayor passes the decree, the use of cellphones in the town will be forbidden in front of schools, in shops, while walking down the street or when there are multiple people present in a public or associative space. Moreover, the decree urges parents to ban all kinds of screens in the morning, at the table, in the evening or in their child’s room. However, despite all the good intentions, no actual sanctioning will be put in place to support the decree, making it essentially a symbolic gesture.
“I see the damage it does to the little ones as soon as the age of three. Some aren’t even able to use their fingers, to stack cubes, to put down their pants to go to the toilet. They can’t say ‘pee’, but they can say ‘tv’! All of that is due to the parents. Put in front of a screen, children are calm. But nothing gets build inside their brains”, local kindergarten head-teacher Jeanne told “Le Parisien” newspaper.
Before the decree has even gone into effect, the vote already divides the opinions in Seine-Port. On the one hand, many younger inhabitants refer to the fact that there is little else to do in the town, while some inhabitants point to the fact that the mayor can’t juridically impose the measure. On the other hand, some do agree that smartphone use has become all too frequent and life-altering, for both kids and adults, and hope that the albeit symbolic decree will open people’s eyes to the problem.