Why banning phones at school isn’t the solution


HASIn the UK, most children have a telephone by age 11. In China, they are getting one at an even younger age, as 88% of students in grades 1 to 3 (ie ages 6-8) have their own laptop.

They are therefore likely to take these phones to school – encouraged to do so by their parents, who have an interest in their safety. However, schools can experience them as disruptive. In France, its use is prohibited during school hours. Yet such a measure is difficult to enforce, according to research with Chinese teachers.

The alternative would be to take note of the now inevitable presence of smartphones in our daily lives in school regulations. Our work suggests that students, even in primary school, have the necessary maturity to contribute to the implementation of such policies.

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Regulate usage

While some research has found that banning cell phones could improve student outcomes, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, other studies have not systematically found this observation.

These inconsistencies from one study to another can be explained by the fact that they focused on different age groups, without much regard for the maturity of the children and their academic motivation. This is not unimportant, as children with age can use their laptop better.

For example, it has been found that 18-year-old students only use their phones between lessons, before the start or at the end of a lesson, while waiting for a teacher to arrive. Moreover, it was often an individual activity, which did not interfere with the learning process. But it seems unlikely that younger teens or children will behave the same way.

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On the other hand, instead of viewing mobile phones as sources of distraction, they could be used to encourage students to participate in their learning process. An initiative such as “Bring your own device”, tested in New Zealand secondary schools, found that students’ digital skills improved when they were encouraged to bring their own smartphones and tablets to class, and in this context we see also an increase in exchanges within the classroom, as well as between students and their teachers.

Rather than ban phones completely, schools could consider policies that integrate some digital skills and make young people aware of the risks of screens and networks. In addition to reducing potential distractions in learning activities, this would promote better everyday use of smartphones, which would be especially valuable for children who, by definition, have more difficulty regulating their use of digital technology.

Chat with families

It is important to take into account the views of all those involved in the subject: the teachers, who are responsible for implementing school policies, the pupils to whom they are addressed, and the parents, who are likely to influence are on the observance of the rules by their children. the rules.

In our study, we conducted interviews in pairs with parents and their children aged 10 or 11 years. First, we asked them a few questions about how they understand the benefits and risks of phones in school. Then we presented them with a panel of school regulations so they could tell us what they thought.

According to the results, both parents and children believe that phones are important for keeping in touch, while being aware of their risks in the school environment, from bullying to internet access. Neither side supports a policy of total cell phone bans.

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Involve parents and children

The children participated with great maturity in the discussions, sometimes surprising their parents with their assessment of the risks. They know how to distinguish between what is appropriate use and what is not. In addition, in collaboration with their parents, they were able to come up with ideas for house rules and solutions to enforce them. A parent/child duo suggested a ‘phone prefect’ role with a cell phone in the classroom that children and parents could use to keep in touch during the day, if needed.

The involvement of young people and their parents in the development of the establishment policy makes it possible to increase their effectiveness and, more generally, even reduce the use that poses problems. For example, consultation with families is already recommended in Ireland regarding mobile phone regulations.

Completely banning phones in schools could therefore amount to missing an opportunity to engage and train new generations in the responsible use of mobile phones.

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* Sarah Rose, Lecturer in Psychology and Child Development (Staffordshire University, UK). Jennifer Taylor, Lecturer in Qualitative Psychological Research Methods (Staffordshire University).


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