In September 2018, school children in France will no longer be able to take a mobile phone into school. The ban on mobile phones, which was originally proposed in 2017, will allow children to bring a mobile phone to school but not to use it during the day, a rule which also extends to lunch and breaktimes. With this topic hot on the education agenda, there has been increased discussion about whether a similar ban would be suitable here in the UK.
From our perspective, many of our products rely on children and parents being able to contact a school and vice versa, however that doesn’t mean that students should be using mobile phones during the school day and certainly during teaching time. So, what are the pros and cons of banning phones from schools?
Surely the biggest benefit to banning the use of mobile phones entirely on school premises is to ensure that students can focus on learning? A mobile phone is often a distraction to those who carry it and others, if it rings or bleeps, and the temptation may be too hard to resist if the phone is in the child’s pocket.
However, access to the internet can support learning and when done in the correct environment and within school rules (such as during break or lunchtime or before school starts) may make a positive difference to some last-minute research or further learning.
Banning mobile phones removes the worry for students of being caught out or genuinely forgetting to put the phone on silent mode and thus taking the consequences. However, a ban means we are also removing the responsibility from children for making their own choices about how to behave and teaching themselves self-moderating behaviour, so they don’t come to rely entirely on communication through digital means.
It’s a relatively new phenomenon but due to our reliance on mobile phones and other technology we tend to fear not being able to get hold of one another and assume the worst if we can’t. Perhaps then the biggest reason for not banning mobile phones in schools is that both parents and children feel safer having the ability to contact and be contacted during the school day. If something goes wrong on the way to and from school, or a trip or sporting meeting is delayed or cancelled, children can quickly inform parents, and no one is left worrying.
Of course, there is the argument that the school can and often will do a lot of this contacting on behalf of students, providing that a suitable communication tool is in place. So, it is not strictly necessary for students to bring a phone into school to inform parents about any school related activities.
Another of the biggest arguments for banning mobile phones in schools is to protect children from being vulnerable. Young children carrying expensive items may be seen as targets, so leaving their phones at home does go some way towards increasing their safety.
However, there is also the counter argument that if the child carries a mobile phone it may make them feel more secure, particularly in the unfortunate scenario that they are bullied as it may give them a way to report this behaviourquickly and confidentially without fearing the backlash.
In conclusion, whilst smartphones do not appear to significantly add anything to the school experience, neither do they seem to take anything away from it. Perhaps just by being there they give students the reassurance that help is at hand and that they can stay in contact with parents if an emergency arises. Most schools have clear policies on mobile phone usage and children accept these as they would any other school rule, so unless the rules are constantly being broken, there is really no need to go that one step further and ban phones altogether.
Perhaps, as with so many other issues in education, it is best to learn from the experience of others and thus schools may be interested to see the impact of the mobile phone ban in French schools over the next academic year.
If you’d like to find out more about Contact Group’s range of communication and data products for schools, please contact our sales team on 03333 131415.