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The education ministry has told the nation’s prefectural boards of education to instruct primary and middle school authorities to ban students from bringing cell phones to school. It also has called for improvement in the education of morals related to communications.

Many schools have already taken similar steps. As of December 2008, 94 percent of publicly run elementary schools and 99 percent of publicly run middle schools prohibited students from taking cell phones to school. Twenty-four of the nation’s 47 prefectural boards of education and 510 of the nation’s 1,826 municipal boards of education have already instructed school authorities to give students proper guidance on the use of cell phones.

The ministry issued the instruction because bullying and abusive language on cell-phone Web sites inflict psychological damage on students and because information on such Web sites could contribute to students becoming crime victims.

In April, a law to control harmful Web sites will go into effect. Under the law, entities that manage Web sites must take measures to prevent harmful information on Web sites from being accessed by youths. However, it is questionable whether screening efforts can keep pace with the growth of such sites.

According to the education ministry, cases of Web site bullying are increasing. In fiscal 2007, authorities at elementary, middle and high schools found about 5,900 such cases, an increase of about 1,000 from fiscal 2006. These account for about 6 percent of all bullying cases. A survey in the January-March 2008 period reveals that 38,260 Web sites existed for students to exchange information. Slanderous and abusive language often appears on these Web sites.

Unfortunately, banning the use of cell phones at school is unlikely to reduce incidents of Web site bullying or lead to a decrease in the number of students falling victim to crime because children will still be able to access these sites after school hours. Parents and teachers must strive to make children more aware of how language can harm others and how they can prevent themselves from becoming crime victims.

Efforts to increase control over children rather than to educate them will only deprive them of the power to think for themselves.

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