BY JACK WATSON
A UN report has suggested smartphones should be banned in schools across the world to protect the mental health of children, to improve learning and to eradicate any distractions in the classroom. This report comes after the agency wrote that less than one in four nations across the world have banned smartphones in schools.
I am still at school and the rule at my school for phones or any electronic devices (laptops, iPads, etc) is that if they are seen or heard in the building, the teacher has the right to take that device from you. If you refuse, you will be put in isolation. The only time we are allowed our phones is when we are outside. However, I have been guilty of taking a glance at my phone in class to check my messages and I am not alone. Many students are on their phone for the duration of a class and some even listen to music. But most of the time they are scrolling through social media sites.
Many do not know that the twin phenomena of ‘nomophobia’ and ‘netlessphobia’ are genuine disorders among students. This is also a problem outside of school when they are back at home; they prefer playing on their electronic devices all night, instead of studying or doing their homework.
Phones can be very problematic for students. A recent study investigated whether student phone use had an impact on academic performance as measured by where the students were ranked in their class. 43 students had their phone use recorded in real time via an app for two weeks and there was a negative correlation between mobile phone use and students’ academic performance. Every 100 minutes per day that a student spent using their phone led to the student dropping 6.3 places in terms of their academic school ranking. This effect was doubled when the students used their phone whilst in class.
Students should be attending school to learn, to earn good grades which will enable them to get a good job. But mobile phones are interfering with this.
Katharine Birbalsingh, a British teacher and education reform advocate who is the founder and head teacher of the Michaela Community School, told school leaders at a conference ‘all the problems start on smartphones’. She believes schools and parents can improve the social mobility of disadvantaged children by restricting access to smartphones. She encourages pupils at her school to hand in their mobile phones and video devices to the school for safekeeping as a part of a ‘detox’ programme. This led to half of the year 11 students volunteering to give up their phones until after sitting their GCSE exams. It is worth quoting at length from what she said:
Other schools should follow Birbalsingh’s lead. There is absolutely no reason why students need to have their phones with them in class. Some argue that they must have their phones with them in case of emergency, but all schools have a reception, where the school can contact home and vice versa. If students must bring their phones to school then safe storage, such as lockers, are provided.
Jack Watson is a 14-year-old schoolboy, who has a Substack about being a Hull City fan. You can subscribe to it here.