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On Banning Phones in Schools

Aaaaand another Govt minister offers ill-considered and not-in-the-real-world advice to schools. This time it’s Gavin Williamson, Education Sec, telling schools they should ban phones. At least he’s the Education Sec, not the then Culture Secretary, Matt Hancock, who jumped in last time with the same message, writing in The Telegraph.

Since I speak about this regularly in schools and for organisations such as HMC and have written The Teenage Guide to Life Online, a book about healthy screen use, what do I think?

I could simply refer the Honourable Gentleman to my previous answer.

In essence, I believe that the primary goal should be to educate and empower positive, healthy actions. Yes, create an environment (with rules, where necessary) where there are times for phones and times for the absence of phones, and teach young people (and adults, first) the difference and the argument behind this stance. But if you ban something you make it more desirable. And when that banned thing is something that is actually powerfully useful and an unavoidable major part of “real life” it’s rather counter-intuitive even to want to ban it. Banning is easy(ish) – for the school and for the individual. But things that are easy are not always the ones that teach us the best lessons.

Teach students the truth – the positives and negatives – about phone and other screen use. Teach when it’s appropriate and when it might not be. Give them tools and tricks to control their use. If you ban, you’re just passing the buck and postponing healthy behaviour.

Williamson is worried because,

“… it acts as a breeding ground for cyber-bullying, and the inappropriate use of social media sites.” It certainly can do. So how about teaching children how to avoid those pitfalls, especially, as, of course, that cyber-bullying etc is not going to stop when the school day stops and children get their phones back, phone which they’ll then often want to binge on.

“While it is for every school to make its own policy, I firmly believe that mobile phones should not be used or seen during the school day, and will be backing head teachers who implement such policies.”

But not head teachers who have a different viewpoint and experience and desire.

 

I am not adamant in my view. I do not think there’s only one answer and that I am categorically right. And I believe schools should do exactly what they think is right because they are the ones who know their students. If a ban is the only way they feel they can achieve the educational outputs they’re looking for, they should go for it. But in that case I recommend framing it in positive terms of healthy lifestyle and hard work, rather than “ban”.

What I don’t think is that they should do it because a politician, who is not in the classroom trying to deliver a real-world education to real human beings, says so.

Worryingly,

“The government will be consulting on how to help heads remove phones from schools, later this year, he added.”

Not how to help schools promote healthy screen use? No, that’s being left to the parents, who now have to make sure homework and family life happen in an environment where their child has been banned from a desired pleasure all day. That’s really going to work.


For a FREE Life Online Parent Guide and other free resources, go here and scroll down to the extras section.

 

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2 Responses

  1. I very much agree about teaching appropriate use, but schools are not necessarily equal places, and phones are not all created equal…
    The school where I work does not allow phones during the school day. The rule is strictly enforced, and I do not think that it disadvantages the students overall.

    1. Hello, Penny, and thank you for commenting. My summing up point was “I believe schools should do exactly what they think is right because they are the ones who know their students. If a ban is the only way they feel they can achieve the educational outputs they’re looking for, they should go for it. But in that case I recommend framing it in positive terms of healthy lifestyle and hard work, rather than “ban”.” It’s the framing of it and it’s how the educational outcome works for all (including children at home in the evening with their families). My view is not that having a no-phone pilicy is wrong, just that a) such a policy needs to be embedded in a wider context of healthy lifestyle and self-control and b) that it’s not the only way to create the best outcome for all (and in my view not necessarily the *best* way). Where possible (and if it isn’t possible then I respect that) I believe that having times and places when/where phones are or aren’t allowed within a school day is in the long term a stronger method to create healthy use and self-control. But banning is certainly simpler and I quite understand why some schools choose that option.

      However, my over-riding point is that schools should do what’s right for them, not because a Govt minister says they should!

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