Pupils’ use of mobile phones in schools has created a surprisingly polarised debate.
According to The Independent, smartphone usage has increased, with nearly half of five to ten-year-olds owning their own phone. Once children are in secondary, you would be hard pushed to find anyone without one.
The question for schools is how to safeguard mobile phone use alongside any disruption.
The two sides of the debate come from very different angles.
One side says they should be banned because they are a distraction, while the other side feels there are benefits in using them for learning as they are undoubtedly here to stay.
In this blog, we will investigate the arguments regarding mobile phone use in schools.
Arguments for Restricting the Use of Mobile Phones in Schools
Safeguarding – Unrestricted access leaves pupils vulnerable to engaging with inappropriate materials they could potentially share with others. It also enables pupils to film teachers or other pupils and post the videos online, invading their privacy rights.
Distraction – Having a mobile phone available is a sure way to cause pupils to lose concentration on their studies. The drive to connect constantly may be a decisive factor in restricting use. Chu et al. (2021) showed that even having a phone in sight can reduce concentration.
Arguments for allowing Mobile Phone Use in Schools
Protection – Many parents are reassured that their child is contactable if there are any changes to plans or delays in pick-ups. It is perhaps one of the main reasons that parents get a mobile phone for their child in the first place.
However, it can also be argued that this removes some freedom from children and can lead to some pressure. Of course, children can usually be contacted by alternative means, such as via the school office.
Online Learning – During the pandemic, the increased use of personal technology to access learning has created a drive for the continued use of apps and online planners.
Supporters see phones as an additional way to reinforce organisation skills by allowing pupils to access planners and homework. In some cases, teachers may encourage pupils to record assignments on phones to be shared in class, possibly creating increased engagement in a digital world.
Payments – We increasingly live in a cashless society. Most secondary schools operate a cafeteria-style lunch, and it is easier for pupils to pay on the phone using Apple Pay or the equivalent.
Similarly, public transport users may find it easier to pay with a phone.
What can schools do regarding mobile phone use?
Is it possible for schools to develop a policy that considers the prevalence of mobile phones but avoids distracting pupils unnecessarily?
Keeping Children Safe in Education (2022) suggests that schools develop a mobile phone policy that reflects child protection and their smart technology policy.
Tom Bennet calls for mobiles to be banned at school. But is this practical? Banning them altogether removes the benefits of safeguarding children on their journeys to and from school.
On the other hand, if you allow restricted use during some lessons, can you remove the risk of distraction and lack of concentration?
Perhaps, like many problems, the answer lies in compromise.
One solution that is becoming popular is the “gate-to-gate” policy. Pupils may bring their phones to school, but they must be switched off at the gate and kept in bags or pockets.
Anyone breaking the rule will have their phone taken away and returned at the gate at hometime.
What do you think? Is it possible to use phones in a learning capacity yet restrict their use at other times?