From hopscotch to Instagram, skipping to snapchatting, mobile phones are what now rule the playground, and more worryingly our classrooms. Matt Hancock, the digital minister, has suggested that schools ban the use of mobile phones by their pupils.
He said: “Technology makes being a parent much harder. And schools have a big role too. I enthusiastically support using technology for teaching. But we also need to teach children how to stay safe with technology. Why do young children need phones in schools?
“There are a number of schools across the country that simply don’t allow them. I believe that very young children don’t need to have access to social media. While it is up to individual schools to decide rather than government, I admire headteachers who do not allow mobiles to be used during the school day. I encourage more schools to follow their lead. The evidence is that banning phones in schools works.”
Successful in France, the Macron government has put forward legislation that will ban the use of mobiles in all schools with the measure receiving little backlash and described as both straightforward and sensible by teachers. Such legislation could cross the channel and make its way into our schools with school boards reviewing their stance of phone usage after campaigns for a legal duty of care to protect children from digital harms.
Seen in school nationwide already, West London based Latymer Upper School has extended its ban on phones to all children up to the end of their GCSE years after its success in restricting access to younger pupils. The school reported ‘incredibly positive’ results since banning phones, with students becoming more sociable and focussed in lessons. There is evidence that’s shows the mere presence of a phone makes it harder to concentrate with the expectation of distraction a distraction in itself.
In two tests of cognitive ability involving 800 people, participants who left their phones outside the room achieved “statistically significant” better results than those who left them in their pockets who, in turn, scored higher than those who left them on their desks.
The researchers said it was a human trait to pay attention to things that are habitually relevant to us, even when they are focused on a different task such as turning our heads when your name is called.
However many argue there are practical difficulties with the idea of a national ban on mobile phones, with many social interactions and coordination with parents carried out through the devices. In the modern age many parents rely on phones as a form of communication with their children while at work. It also raises the question how schools would police this new policy and the sanctions for repeat offenders.
While the debate continues, it is clear to see more and more school's are adopting this stance on mobile phones. However with these devices becoming ever prominent in our childrens lives, is it too late for our schools to become phone free zones?