Should schools ban phones?
on 10 Sep, 2019
The contentious issue of whether smartphones should be allowed in schools is once again being debated by government officials, parents, and education professionals, following a leaked report on the new government’s education plan.
One of the key takeaways from the document, which detailed a raft of proposals, was that school leaders would be encouraged to take stronger action on smartphone use within schools through bans and confiscations. This is in line with views expressed by previous government ministers on this issue; last year, then culture secretary Matt Hancock, argued that all smartphone use should be banned in schools.
But are blanket bans the answer to improving performance and behaviour? Let’s look at the arguments in support of bans, as well as those against, in order to understand the issue in more detail.
Should schools ban smartphones?
The main thrust of the government initiative is the disputed claim that smartphones lead to distractions in the classroom and hinder learning – not just of the child using the device, but of the entire cohort. In theory, this makes a lot of sense. By simply removing the temptation for distractions, you eliminate the risk that smartphones could be used to negatively impact the classroom environment. And this appears to be a sentiment that is echoed by parents. A survey conducted by loveit coverit, of 1,000 UK parents, shows that nearly one in four believe smartphones shouldn’t be allowed in schools under any circumstances.
While disruption is often cited as the most pressing issue by those outside of day-to-day school activity, there are some other reasons as to why people feel smartphones should be banned. In the loveit coverit research, parents specifically highlighted cyberbullying and theft as more pressing concerns than the risk of distraction in the classroom.
Cyberbullying is a general concern for most parents that allow their child access to modern technology, and is something that everyone should know how to guard themselves against, but the risk of bullying is increased if smartphones are allowed in schools. Not only does this allow children to spend more time online – before and after school, and between lessons – but it also increases the chances of pupils interacting directly via their smartphones. As this is clearly a concern for parents and educators, it does make for a good argument to ban smartphone use in a school environment.
These are two of the main arguments made by the government and offer plenty of convincing points, there are some counter points that are used to argue in favour of allowing smartphones in schools – something that doesn’t seem to have been considered in the government’s released document
The benefits of smartphone use
One of the biggest arguments for a laxer approach to smartphone possession in schools is that they can be used in an emergency situation. Not only does it allow pupils to quickly and easily contact their parents should they need to, it also gives parents peace of mind knowing that they can get hold of their child in case of an emergency. This is particularly necessary when children move from primary to secondary school, where they may be expected to walk, cycle or take public transport to get there, as well as stay later to engage in extracurricular activities. For a lot of parents, they will see smartphone ownership as essential for the safety and protection of their child.
According to the loveit coverit research, over half of parents opt to give their child their first mobile phone between the age of 10 and 13. This corresponds with when children will be starting secondary school and becoming more independent, highlighting how smartphones can be an important accessory for pupils to have on them, both in and out of school. This is something that seems to be accepted and actively encouraged by a majority of secondary schools across the country. From reviewing UK school policies, loveit coverit found that 71% allow smartphones on the premises in some capacity, presumably in case of an emergency.
Another benefit for having smartphones in the classroom is that they can be used as a learning tool – especially in under-funded schools which may not have enough IT equipment for everyone. By allowing for the use of smartphones, those that can’t access traditional research equipment still have internet use in the classroom. Of course, the main caveat of this is that it needs to be strictly monitored, which may cause issues in larger cohorts with only one teacher. This isn’t a completely unsupported idea either, with research suggesting that both teachers and pupils would be in favour of controlled use of smartphones in order to aid learning.
As with most arguments relating to education, there are good points on both sides. A key differentiator appears to be about context and how individual schools feel they need to respond – after all, they are best placed to make decisions that benefit their students. While the governments notions of increased bans do have some merit, they could end up negatively impacting pupils, parents, and educators that rely on smart technology for a number of reasons.
loveitcoverit supplies mobile device and gadget insurance