Some parents and teachers claim the use of mobiles is quite acceptable in our technologically focused world. Others say mobile phones are an unnecessary and unwanted distraction in the classroom. A recent report by Common Sense Media revealed that 29% of children start using mobile phones before they are able to talk; 70% of children have a complete understanding of how to use mobile phones by the time they arrive at primary school.
Mobile phones are replacing more traditional forms of entertainment and playing an increasingly important role in children’s modern development. However, there is a great deal of uncertainty and argument around the merit of mobile phone use in schools.
The rules regarding mobile phone use are typically set out in school policies. They outline the different forms of discipline that children can expect if found using their mobile phones in class. Many teachers are unwilling to tolerate the use of mobile phones during lessons. However, they face a significant challenge when it comes to the confiscation of mobile devices. Children are usually quite aware of their rights and teachers’ reluctance to exercise force. Some teachers would rather turn a blind eye and focus on the students who are happy to engage during lessons.
Parents bear responsibility for guidance on the use of mobile phones. However, there is pressure to follow the latest trends and give children the opportunity to engage with technology. Some adults set a negative example and use their mobile phones during inappropriate social situations. Such behaviour is copied by impressionable school children. The unfortunate teachers face an uphill battle in persuading pupils not to send text messages and use social media during lessons.
Of course there are some valid reasons for the controlled use of mobile phones in schools. Children should be given the opportunity to learn the various uses of modern technology in preparation for their adult lives. Mobile phones can be used to check maths problems and record group discussions for later reference. School pupils can use their mobiles to phone home and tell parents that they are staying at after school clubs or need picking up urgently. The mobile devices may even be used to call the emergency services in particularly serious situations. Yet this is rare.
Many teachers are prepared to advocate the sensible use of mobile phones. However, they worry about the prospect of theft and the difficulty of keeping the young mobile users on task. There are also fears regarding the online posting of school photographs and messages. The General Secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland said, “I’ve dealt personally with a number of situations which involved malicious comments, doctored photographs, someone being accused of being racist. We are very keen at schools to take these issues seriously and a number of situations we’ve insisted on the police being involved.”
It is little wonder that teachers are concerned about mobile phone use, given the potential impact upon careers and pupil wellbeing. However, the use of mobile phones and other potentially distracting devices is continuing to rise according to recent reports. The best course of action may be to encourage the controlled use of mobile phones during the school day. 70% of pupils in Denmark are allowed unrestricted use of their mobile phones. However, they continue to set high academic standards.
My personal opinion is that children should be encouraged to have, and use, mobile phones and other personal devices. It’s how the world works these days and they are an excellent way to keep in touch. Yet they’re very distracting and it’s easy to become obsessed with digital communications and games. Maybe the school policy should be to hand them in at the beginning of the school day (appropriately labelled, of course) and get them back as the school bell rings … and learn that you do not have to be attached to them 24/7 !