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Using phones in school...?

By Emily Doherty
Posted:20/05/2024 14:47:25
Let's unpick the pros and cons!
Let's unpick the pros and cons!

After years of discussion in government, schools have recently been issued new guidance intended to stop the use of mobile phones in schools. Teachers have rising concerns about disruption in the classrooms and issues of cyberbullying, but in an age where digital literacy and social media are more valued in workplaces than ever before, is the idea of moving phones out of schools the right one to take?


·       Distraction

Teachers are fighting a constant disheartening battle; hours of time prepping engaging lessons and passionately explaining the intricacies of Shakespeare or scientific wonders; whilst half the class is sneakily scrolling through TikTok dances. In the new guidance, the department for education cite distraction as a key issue of phones in the classroom. Research from the University of Chicago found that just the presence of phones, even on silent mode, can eat away at our cognitive ability, seriously impacting our ability to absorb information draining our mental energy like a digital leech.

·       Disruption

Our phones are a significant constant in all our lives – always in our hands or pockets. We have all the information in the world, and all the people we have ever known at our disposal all the time. With the allure and variety that social media offers, from sending pictures via Snapchat to sharing #relatablecontent on TikTok, it is far too easy for students to want to engage with anything but their lesson. Classrooms are filled with buzzes and pings from phones, and teachers know all too well if a ‘ping’ is perceived as being more interesting than what is going on inside the classroom, it is a frustrating challenge to get a student’s attention back.

·       Cyber Bullying

Impact on student well-being is a significant and serious issue regarding phones in the classroom. Cyberbullying lurks as an anonymous danger in the digital shadows, and when it pounces can have devastating effects on young peoples lives. Social media makes it all top easy for bullies to send hurtful messages anonymously, as well as impersonate and embarrass victims. Educators are more responsible than ever for tackling the awful effects of shattered self-esteems and poor mental health of victims than ever before.


·       Tool for Learning

Mobile learning – the art of turning smartphones into educational portals. We all have the power to access more information than ever before, and whilst in previous years the lack of structure to accessing information has proved an issue, there are now more educational apps and platforms with purpose-built quizzes, content and lessons than ever before. Accessing information online is allows us to explore real-time data, global issues and firsthand accounts and teachers everywhere are finding creative and engaging ways to integrate digital content into their lessons. With AI, mobile learning apps are now able to support teachers by adapting to individual needs – tracking student progress and recommending relevant content.


·       Digital Literacy

To teach a generation that will use mobile devices more than any other without phones could seem like a step backwards. Jobs in every sector rely on people’s digital literacy, and navigating the digital landscape is a hugely important skill for anyone. The classroom space has always been a place to think critically and fact check, and with a world wide web of misinformation and #fakenews, smartphones alongside teacher’s expertise provide the opportunity to learn these skills in the classroom. Similarly, just like we learn a lot about how to communicate and work collaboratively in-person at school, with 44% of jobs being remote in the UK in 2023, surely teaching digital communication at school should be a priority.

·       Individuals and Communities

The digital space is a place for both the individual space and global communities. Thanks to social media, young people have a plethora of platforms to express themselves, present their ideas and engage with like-minded people. Social media and the digital space amplify the voices of young people and can unite young people across the globe in a way that nothing else can by circulating information, engaging in political commentary, and documenting societal issues. Thanks to social media, young people have more power than before to shape conversations and drive positive change from wherever they are.


Amongst the pros and cons of the ‘phones in schools’ issue, one thing is for sure, the digital space will continue to grow at speed. Perhaps there is an impossible balancing act for productive usage of phones in schools; something else to add to the seemingly endless responsibilities of teachers? So,  teachers, students, parents, where do you stand on the ‘phones in schools’ issue?

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