Mobile phones and children have always been a hot topic and now the UK Government is looking at banning mobile phone use during the school day.
The proposal, set out by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, wants to address the distraction caused by phones, with claims that “they can have a damaging effect on a pupil’s mental health and wellbeing” when misused or overused.
Most young people would say that their phone is their life, that it enables them to stay in contact with their friends and not having access to a smartphone essentially means they’re cut off from everything that’s happening in their world.
Initially this will be a call for evidence, gathering information from teachers, staff and parents with a 6 week consultation. The aim is to improve behaviour in schools and remove the role that mobile phones might play in fuelling bad behaviour.
For many parents, smartphones are seen as a necessary evil, meaning that a child can be contacted as they gain more autonomy, as well as allowing contact when things change, like the train is cancelled or there’s an afterschool activity that was forgotten.
Some schools already ban mobile phone use – but some actively use mobile phones during the day as part of wider activities, accepting that smartphone have become a part of daily life and finding and processing information is a valuable skill and that phones aren’t just about TikTok.
At the same time, the smartphone is a portal to everything inappropriate on the internet, all forms of entertainment and games as well as the omnipresence of social media.
“In order for us to help pupils overcome the challenges from the pandemic and level up opportunity for all young people, we need to ensure they can benefit from calm classrooms which support them to thrive,” said Williamson.
Many students will say that it was their mobile phone that helped them cope with the isolation of the pandemic, allowing them to stay in social contact with friends they couldn’t see.
It’s a thorny issue for sure and we suspect it will result in a standardisation of policy, but no huge change in reality.
Children and parents won’t want to abandon mobile phones because of the benefit they offer to travel so they will still be in schools; many in education are likely to say that there are far bigger issues in schools to consider and that they should be left to manage their own policies.