Should Mobiles be a Banned in Schools?

With technology’s increasing influence in society, there has been a fair amount of debate over whether mobiles — and in particular smartphones — should be completely banned from schools. This comes with the revelation that over 90% of all teenagers in the UK own a mobile phone, and a huge proportion of that number own smartphones.

With this rise in the use of mobiles, many are increasingly worried about the effects-heavy mobile use might have on young people, and in particular, the easy access smartphones provide to social media and ‘dangerous’ online content.

The debate has appeared to divide people, but many schools have taken the initiative to either completely ban or partially ban mobiles in school. The drive has been seen as an effort to reduce social media bullying and the amount of time students spend transfixed to their phone screens. It is also an initiative to prevent distractions in classrooms as teachers get frustrated with pupils texting, snapchatting or watching videos in class.

Last year, the London School of Economics (LSE) conducted research that investigated the effects of banning mobiles in schools. The research found that schools which had banned mobiles had seen their test scores rise by around 6%, and generally cites the positive impact the ban had on disadvantaged students. The report’s authors concur that a ban on mobiles in schools has had generally positive effects.

While this study has amplified the voices of those calling for a complete ban, there are still many that oppose the idea. They argue that banning mobiles from schools will not make the problems that technology brings go away. Children still have access to that technology in their own time, they can still get on social media and the risks associated with mobiles are still there. 
Additionally, people argue that there is no way of policing such a ban, children will always find a way around it. Unless you did stop and searches every day when the children go into school there is no way of stopping kids bringing in their mobiles.

Instead of completely banning this technology, teachers should be utilising it to their advantage. With ever-increasing cuts and austerity, many schools are struggling to be fully equipped with the latest technology, so why not use what they have in front of them? Teachers could use them as cameras, or for research, or for the plethora of teaching and educational apps. To avoid children those few children who don’t have smartphones missing out, you could encourage sharing them for class projects, which could also deter pupils from using them for personal use in lessons.

Research conducted in Singapore has even gone as far as to suggest that taking away smartphones from children can hinder their test results and cognitive function, as ‘smartphone addiction’ makes them constantly think of what they might be missing out on. The researchers suggested that students should be allowed ‘technology breaks’ in lessons where they can check their phones and then go back to work with better concentration. 
While I think this research is fairly extreme in its outcomes, there could be some level of reason within it. Even if teachers insist on banning mobiles in classrooms, children should at least be allowed to use them in breaks so they can get their ‘technology fix’ before entering the classroom again. This could also help encourage sensible use of smartphones as it teaches them the importance of having breaks from technology.

It may have been proven in LSE’s research that a ban on mobiles has increased pupil performance, but could performance be further increased by utilising this technology? Mobile phones are just a small part of the amazing technological advances going on in the world today, and that technology is not going away. It is short-sighted for teachers to believe that banishing mobiles in schools is banishing the issues that come with them.

Introducing new ways of using smartphones, and perhaps even running some lessons on using technology responsibly, could open new and innovative avenues in teaching that have otherwise been repressed. How can we expect to prepare students for the technological age when we repress basic technology in schools? It is time to embrace technological changes, and utilising what children have in their pockets is a good way to start.