In recent years the debate as to whether children should be allowed to take their mobile phones to school has intensified, especially in the wake of France enforcing an outright ban. In the United Kingdom, we do not have any government legislation which dictates whether schools should or should not allow mobile phones, however, the Education Act 2011 does give increased powers for staff to search pupils if they believe a mobile phone has been used in an offence. Instead, every school decides its own mobile phone policy, choosing the level of allowance for mobile phones and the punishment attributed to any infringement on the rules.
Despite this, many commenters from either side of the debate, whether they be teachers, parents, or government figures, have suggested reasons why mobile phone policies should be allowed or banned from schools. As part of our research into how smartphones are affecting our younger generation, we’re taking a look at the arguments to better understand whether children really should be allowed to take a phone to school or not:
• One of the main reasons that schools have strict mobile phone policies, and campaigners want to increase the restrictions, is that they can cause disruption in lessons. Even if a student is not intentionally using their mobile while in class, the fact that one could go off and create a distraction for every other student, can cause a disruption that limits learning. In the case of individual distraction, removing the temptation for children to get distracted of their own accord will boost their attentiveness in lessons. Overall, potential for distraction is a big reason why students shouldn’t take phones to school.
• Another reason that children shouldn’t be allowed mobile phones in school is that it increases the chances that children will experience cyberbullying. Cyberbullying in any form of bullying or harassment that isn’t physical, such as receiving texts, phone calls, or messages over social media. If children take their phones into school and share their personal data with each other, it creates opportunities for bullies to take advantage of anonymity over the internet.
• Aside from cyberbullying, the presence of mobile phones in schools can lead to other forms of criminality among students. The main concern for parents and teachers is that children flaunting their smartphones creates the opportunity for theft or criminal damage – and while the school can help to prevent these cases, it cannot be held liable should the worst happen. Ensuring that children don’t take mobile phones to school also reduces the risk of jealousy-based bullying or violence. For example, a student cannot be ridiculed for not having the latest handset.
• A big argument for children being allowed to take mobile phones to school is in the case of an emergency. While it’s no unreasonable to expect a child to use the reception phone if they need to contact their parent or guardian during the school day, there are time when children will not have that option. Or children who stay late for clubs or sports events, they need to be able to get hold of their parents, especially when they are their transport to and from school. Equally, if a child is subjected to bullying or harassment outside of school – on the walk home, for example – having a phone on them will make it easier to get help.
• No one has sensibly suggested that children should be allowed to take phones into school and have unrestricted use – instead, most arguments for their inclusion are with responsible use. This means that your child should only use their mobile in accordance with the school’s mobile phone policy, and for situations that do not directly affect other people around them. The best example of responsible use is to keep the mobile on silent and out of sight for the majority of the day, and to only use it when outside of school. This is especially important for children that walk to and from school, who use their phone for music, messaging, and calls.
• A lot of schools have mobile phone policies that allow students to use them for research purposes, with permission from a teacher. And while most schools do have adequate IT facilities for pupils to take advantage of during break and lunch times, there’s very often not enough for everyone to use. By allowing your children to take their mobile phone to school, they can use their phone as a research tool when there are no computers available – meaning that students can complete homework or personal projects when IT services aren’t available.
Overall, when considering whether children should take phones to school it’s important to comply with the school’s mobile phone policy. If they have a complete ban on mobile phones, you should ensure that your child doesn’t break the rules, as this could lead to them having the device confiscated for a long time, wasting your money. However, if you feel there are legitimate reasons that your child should be allowed to take their phone to school (such as those listed above), you should raise it and try and find an amicable solution.