Why I'd ban mobile phones in schools
I sometimes wonder how we survived without mobile phones while we were at school.
What did we do if we missed the bus home? Oh yes, we either walked or used the telephone in the school reception to contact our parents.
And if we had an urgent message for a friend during a maths lesson? Without the chance of sending a text, we simply scribbled a note on a piece of paper, made it into an aeroplane and flung it in their general direction.
For many years, people managed without mobile phones. Children still got educated – and got home every evening. They even managed to sort out their social lives via the oh-so-last-century medium of a face-to-face conversation.
Which is why I take a draconian view of mobile phones in schools. I would ban them outright.
Their supposed benefits are far outweighed by their negative points – including how they distract people from learning, and can be used to harass students or teachers, and to bully or humiliate people by taking photos and posting them on social networking sites.
They are also extremely expensive gadgets, and can be damaged or stolen, or create a "my phone’s better than yours" pecking order that alienates poorer children.
My children are not allowed to take their phones to school. In fact, they don’t even get one until they are 13, so for two of them it’s not an issue yet.
The debate is currently in the news because the government is trying to bring in legislation that would give school staff pumped-up powers to confiscate mobile phones and look at their content to check for inappropriate texts or images.
Remarkably, having rightly and repeatedly raised the issue of mobile phone abuse and cyber-bullying in classrooms, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) has opposed the new powers.
It’s almost as if, having asked for action, the union cannot bring itself to support the government – even when it does what is demanded of it.
I have some sympathy with the union’s point, that teachers would put themselves in difficult positions if they took advantage of their police-style "stop-and-search" powers.
Children would cry "civil liberties", and the usual minority of knee-jerk parents would storm into the school to oppose the treatment of their children –full of their "rights", but unable to grasp their responsibility to sit down, shut up and listen in lessons.
But children and parents do not run schools – staff and governors do. And, in order to ensure that the tail doesn’t wag the dog, there is certainly a need for firm action over mobile phones.
As I’ve already said, the easiest way to avoid any doubt – and to help teachers to reclaim the classrooms – would be to ban mobile phones and other devices like iPods from schools.
Some schools have already done it. And, while it’s tricky to enforce at first, if the rules are set out clearly enough and the disciplinary action enforced firmly, it makes schools more industrious places.
The downside of introducing a ban on mobiles in schools is that teachers will have to deal with the withdrawal symptoms.
I’ve seen at first hand what happens when a teenager is temporarily separated from his or her phone: there are genuine attachment and addiction issues, and panic attacks and cold sweats are only the beginning.
So if a ban is introduced, I would suggest that each school signs up an addiction counsellor to treat the poor lambs.
posted on 29 March 2011 08:15 bySteve Downes