- What are the current rules on mobiles in schools?
- Reasons why smartphones should be allowed in school
- The cons of allowing mobiles in school
- Should phones be allowed in school?
Are mobiles in schools a good thing or a bad thing? Right now, there is no official rule on phones in UK schools. However, many politicians have suggested a ban on mobiles in classrooms and the government is currently considering the idea.
A report by research group Childwise found that 47% of 5 to 10-year olds in the UK now have a mobile and by the age of 11 over 90% of teenagers have their own phones. For children in secondary school mobile ownership was “almost universal”.
Despite this, about half of parents want smartphones banned in schools according to a survey by consumer site uSwitch. The same research found that more than a quarter of parents would prefer to give their kids a simple mobile that can’t connect to the internet instead of a smartphone.
What are the current rules on mobiles in schools? 🎓
Individual schools are allowed to determine their own policy regarding the use of devices and they can even ban phones from being taken onto school property at all.
For the many kids that have wondered “are teachers allowed to confiscate your phone?” The answer is that, yes, they can if a child is using their phone when they shouldn’t be.
While some teachers ask kids to keep their phones in their bags during class, others try to use them during lessons when they can be helpful.
Smartphones can bring a lot to education. These mini-computers can add interactivity, fun, and relevance to lessons.
Perhaps surprisingly, many teachers are against the idea of a government ban.
According to the research by Teacher Tapp, teachers do not see mobile phones as much of a problem.
One survey found that 0% of primary teachers reported a student using a mobile phone without permission and in secondary schools just 27% of teachers faced this problem.
The same study found that around 66% of teachers allowed mobile phone use in class. The teachers surveyed let students use their phones to:
- take photos of notes on the board
- take photos of their work
- take part in class quizzes
- check school emails
The Association of School and College Leaders (ACSL) said educators were “mystified” by the government’s interest in a ban. It said schools and teachers had already been dealing with the issue for many years and they should be the ones to decide if and when mobiles become a problem.
The ACSL pointed out how important mobiles were for young people during the coronavirus lockdowns. Children relied on their phones to keep in touch with their friends and to help with home schooling.
It also warned that students “may experience anxiety” if phones are banned which could “trigger poor behaviour”.
Reasons why smartphones should be allowed in school 👌
These are the pros of allowing mobiles in schools:
- Engagement 👀
Using mobiles in class as part of structured learning activities can make lessons more engaging for kids and increase motivation. Some students who are too shy to speak out in class may find it easier to contribute by posting comments on class Twitter threads or message boards.
- Enjoyable learning 😀
Apps such as Kahoot and Mentimeter can be used in almost any lesson to engage students in quizzes and games. The huge range of educational videos, podcasts, and apps provides enjoyable ways to cover almost every topic on the curriculum.
- Creativity 🖌
Mobile phones also offer lots of opportunities for kids to be creative. From drawing pictures to taking and editing videos, from composing music to recording podcasts, smartphones are multi-media production studios beyond the dreams of any artist in history. It’s safe to say that, thanks to smartphones, homework has never been so much fun!
- Organization ⌛
Many schools use apps or cloud platforms to help monitor students’ work, progress, and well-being. Kids can use educational apps to research, study, and improve their time management skills.
- Up-to-date materials 🎁
Mobile phones can be used to provide extra material. Textbooks can often become out-of-date quickly and teachers can help students find more current information in the form of news stories, video clips, and research. Video and audio materials can go beyond textbooks and make subjects come alive.
- Deeper knowledge 🔎
The personal nature of a mobile phone can allow kids who are especially interested in a topic to explore it much further than would be possible for a class as a whole. Phones are an excellent resource for self-directed learning and can open the door to a pupil becoming a little genius in a subject that really grabs them.
- Professional tools 🚀
In STEM subjects, smartphones allow students to access professional-level tools. Smartphones are packed with sensors that can be used in fun and intriguing ways in science, maths, geography, and even history classes. For example, pupils doing fieldwork can produce presentations using GPS coordinates, videos, sounds, images, and other data they have gathered themselves, just like real scientists!
- Preparation for work 💼
School should help prepare kids for their working lives. Learning how to use mobiles and apps to study, create and organize is a skill that will be important throughout their careers as in today’s tech-heavy workplace.
- Learning to use technology safely ✅
Children need to know how to avoid the dangers of the internet and social media. Teachers show pupils how to use technology safely and responsibly in PSHE and RSE lessons. This job can be made easier if pupils have access to their own devices during these classes.
- Personal safety ☎
For children in the care system, phones can be extra important. Kids in such situations can use mobiles to ask for help, support and to keep in touch with family and guardians. Mobiles can also be crucial for young carers who need to keep in contact with vulnerable parents.
From a parents’ point of view, mobiles can help make sure your kids are where they’re supposed to be. On top of being able to contact them whenever you need to, you can install tracking tools designed to let parents keep an eye on their kids' locations. We recommend explaining this to your children upfront, so they don’t find out by accident!
- Lighter loads 🎈
Using mobiles in class allows teachers to do less photocopying and means pupils don’t have to lug around as many books and binders full of paper as they used to.
The cons of allowing mobiles in school ⛔
In wider society, mobiles have been linked with various physical and mental health disorders along with cyberbullying, self-esteem issues, inappropriate material, and exploitation. There are many problems associated with kids and mobile phones, so we’re going to look at how mobiles can affect education directly.
- Phones affect academic performance ❌
In 2015, a study by the London School of Economics reported that, when schools in four English cities banned phones, they saw a 6.4% improvement in the test scores of 16-year-olds. The researchers claim banning phones had the same effect as students getting an extra week of teaching a year. Pupils with poor performance and those from lower-income backgrounds experienced the biggest boost in marks.
Another investigation in Brazil found the relationship between mobile phone usage and students’ academic performance was a negative one. For every 100 minutes spent using their phone a day a student dropped 6.3 places in terms of their academic ranking and the negative effect was twice as strong when students used their phone in the middle of classes.
Students in Spain did better in maths and science after mobiles were banned and levels of bullying dropped.
In Norway, a ban on mobiles also led to a fall in bullying and a huge rise in average results for middle school pupils and also made them more likely to continue in academic education instead of moving to a trade school.
- Phones lead to weaker concentration and memory ❓
Phones hurt our ability to focus on what we’re supposed to be doing because humans can’t really multitask. In reality, we switch between tasks, and doing this takes energy, effort, and time. This is why it is illegal to use a mobile while driving.
Smartphones contain a world of distractions and using one for a specific learning objective requires enough willpower to avoid getting side-tracked. Researchers have found that even a phone just sitting on a desk is enough to distract us because it reminds us of all the notifications, emails, messages, and alerts we want to check.
We experience a fear of missing out on something interesting going on somewhere else. This distraction effect not only makes concentration harder but also memorization. Studying or doing homework with your phone near you can lead to a 20% drop in results.
- Techno-phobic technology executives 🚨
Silicon Valley could be considered the home of the smartphone. So, maybe it should be alarming to learn that many executives from companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook send their children to schools where phones are strongly discouraged.
Institutions like the Waldorf School use blackboards, paper, and pencils instead of electronic whiteboards and mobiles. Schools like this emphasise physical learning environments, play, and imagination. They do provide pupils with access to technology through “maker spaces”, where kids learn to build machines.
However, devices such as laptops, tablets, and phones are largely kept out of the classroom until kids reach their early teens. The school’s educators believe too much tech too young can stop children developing their concentration, imagination, and social skills.
Should phones be allowed in school? 👀
Smartphones are an essential part of our everyday lives and few adults could survive without one for long in today’s society. This makes it easy to forget that smartphones are a relatively recent phenomenon in the history of education.
So far, the hard data seems to suggest that banning mobile phones leads to a measurable improvement in children’s academic performance.
However, mobile phones are going to be part of our world for a long time and it is still relatively early days in terms of allowing mobiles in class. Teachers, pupils and parents are still learning what works best.
The creativity, engagement, and immediacy enabled by phones, along with the resources they give access to are big arguments in their favour.
As long as mobiles are used in a structured way with clear objectives and rules being set they can be very useful learning tools. Schools should also make plenty of room in the timetable to allow learning periods with mobiles firmly tucked away in school bags. A sensible balanced approach to this issue should allow kids to get the best of both worlds.
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