Ooh this is a tricky one! It has been in the news this week that school experts including the dreaded Ofsted believe that mobile phones should be banned at school.
I grew up in the era before the prevalence of phones. If I needed to phone home I had to use the pay phone in reception and that certainly put you off making anything other than the most urgent calls!
But mobiles are not being used in school for calling people (soooo last century!): now even texting is outdated as pupils communicate through Messenger and Snapchat.
I can actually understand the appeal. Chris and I speak through Messenger several times a day whereas my parents never spoke to each other for over 12 hours at a time while my dad worked.
My own children are still too young to have mobiles but once they start to walk to school by themselves I would like the reassurance of a quick message to say they have got there safely. I don’t want them to be in a panic about forgetting their calculator so they can just message me to ask for help.
However, I see no reason for them to have their phone in lessons without an explicit purpose sanctioned by the staff, and I think that teachers should confiscate any phones being used without permission. Parents and friends should have a responsibility to only contact at break times so that they don’t interrupt the school day and the phone user should keep it on silent all the time (imagine the noise if 500+ notifications all happen at once in the canteen!)
I think there may be some educational purpose to allowing phones in the classroom. Being able to quickly verify some information for a task by using a search engine, being able to take a photo of some information or work for later use if you run out of time, being able to ask for a teacher’s help via email. But I doubt the children’s ability to focus on these and not be tempted by a missed notification that pops up on screen (I know I couldn’t!)
There is another issue concerning mobile phones and that is parents using phones on the school site. One of the schools I work for is considering banning parents using their phone on the playground as it prevents the parents communicating with their child let alone supervising them (or even acknowledging their existence!) Meanwhile I was asked to put my phone away at Zach’s preschool as it is a safeguarding risk as I could have been photographing children (I was actually reading a book!)
One final consideration is the rise of cyberbullying. School was tough enough when I was a teen but to have the hormonally charged friendship angst played out across social media must be hideous. Teenagers are cruel and the thought of being trolled in and out of school via a mobile phone is simply awful. Hopefully having a phone will also let some teens contact supportive friends when life gets tough…
What do you think of banning mobile phones in school?