Should smartphones be banned in school?
Following a decision by the state of Victoria government in Australia to exclude smart phones from primary and secondary schools, Sam Chester looks at arguments for and against banning phones in school.
The question of whether a school should be a gadget-free environment is one that isn’t easy to answer. Teachers will have different views – as will students whose views are relevant and should be valued. The use of mobile phones schools is a hot topic, and the State of Victoria in Australia has recently imposed a ban on smartphones and other similar devices in schools, effective in Term 1, 2020.
But is banning the best solution? Is there even a problem that needs to be solved? Let’s look at some of the arguments for and against restricting the use of gadgets at school.
Cyber-bullying is one often seen as a good reason for banning phones in school. It’s easy to understand why – this issue is truly acrimonious. More than a third of school students aging from 12 to 17 have experienced this form of bullying. Most cases of cyberbullying happen on social media such as Instagram and sometimes, parents and teachers may not even know their children and students have accounts there. Therefore, it is hard to stop.
However, cyber-bullying doesn’t only occur in schools. Even without access to their smartphones during school time, bullies have many opportunities to abuse their victims outside of school. Banning the use of gadgets in school as a means to combat bullying can be seen as avoiding the real issue of dealing with the bullying itself.
And cyber-bullying isn’t the only danger that lurks on social media. Malicious files and unsavory content, scams and even social engineering and cyberstalking can be found there in alarming abundance. All of these, obviously, are equally dangerous and a smartphone ban hardly solves the problem.
A far better solution in addressing on-line bullying is educating children on the matter of online safety. To temporarily restrict pupils’ access to their gadgets won’t prevent them from experiencing the darker side of the internet after school, but teaching them how not to fall victim to bullying and other dangers can.
Another argument against phones in schools is how distracting they are to students. Here the banning option is on safer ground. While it’s true that kids at school have found things to be distracted by for as long as schools have existed, it’s hard to deny that smartphones carry a lot more distracting potential than, say, passing notes or doodling. So, for a school to collect phones and lock them away for as long as a class goes on, doesn’t seem a half-bad idea to improve students’ productivity and attention. Test results were found to increase by 6% after a ban was imposed.
Research from 2015 suggest a number of different things about banning phones from schools. Students from low-income families apparently gain the most from a phone ban prohibition, while another interesting finding is that better-performing pupils are less likely to be distracted by smartphones than those who struggle a bit at school. But would it be fair to ban the use of phones for students with lower grades only? Absolutely not. Perhaps, a better idea would be for teachers to confiscate gadgets on a case by case basis and only when the device is distracting a pupil.
However, there is a difference between having to put your smartphone into a secure locker in the morning along with all the other students and having it suddenly (if not undeservedly) taken from you in class.
While smartphones can be distracting if used innappropriately, their usefulness for learning is undeniable.
Using apps in education makes children more involved, increases the enjoyment they get from studying, and promotes self-learning. Besides, it lets teachers and parents communicate better with each other and with the children.
Of course, a school allowing the use of gadgets to enhance the education process must keep the negative side of mobiles use in mind. Using school-issued gadgets that only have access to apps necessary for studying seems like a great idea, but comes with obvious budgetary issues.
To ban or not to ban? – that is the question
So which way should we go? Country-wide bans or permissions may be the quickest solution but lack the individual approach sorely needed in education. First of all, the question of prohibiting smartphones is best left to schools or, better still, class teachers to decide.
And secondly, the question – to ban or not to ban? should be answered by listening to students, teachers and parents because it’s a difficult one that needs to be discussed fully and perhaps after a proper educated discussion on the issue, you can expect some reasonable results.
Support Images: by Linus Schütz & Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay