Should smart phones be banned from schools? Parents, teachers and pupils are deeply divided

TES, First News and Mumsnet conducted three new surveys of teachers, school children and parents, and found that all the groups are deeply divided about whether smart phones should be banned from schools

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Split down the middle

  • A survey by TES showed 50% of teachers think phones should be banned and 50% don't. 
  • 44% of the school children surveyed by First News agreed that they should be banned in schools, while 56% did not.
  • 47% of parents asked by Mumsnet thought that phones should be banned, and 53% thought they should not.

The results show just how tricky it is to get this issue right, with concerns about cyber-bullying, distraction and inappropriate content pitted against convenience, safety and ease of communication for young people. 

Even among those most closely affected, there's no consensus on the right approach.

What do students think?

"Phones are banned at my school. We're allowed to take them but they're confiscated if they are seen or heard. I'm glad this ban is in place because everyone is more concentrated on their work and it's much less distracting in class." - Heidi, age 14, speaking to First News.

What do parents think?

"Why on earth would you ban something that has become so integral to everyday life? Why go backwards? If smart phones are banned for the children, ban the teachers' too - and the interactive whiteboards, and the computers, and the tablets..." - A parent responding to the Mumsnet survey.

Could you live without your phone?

Nicky Cox MBE, Editor at First News, said: "The world has moved on and we all rely on our smart phones to keep in touch. I would hate to be told I couldn't have mine for the day. As a parent, I might need to communicate a change in plans to my children during the day, and I want them to be able to contact me, too. Clearly, phones need to be switched off during lessons but I see no reason why they can't be used during break and lunch time. That appears to be the view of most children, too, although there is, clearly, some division."

Is there a happy medium?

Justine Roberts, Mumsnet Founder, said: "Parents are massively conflicted about this: they know the downsides of smart phones - not least that they can drive teachers crazy - but they're reliant on them for keeping in touch, especially with older children. The solution seems to be to allow them in schools, but firmly turned off and out of sight until the bell goes."

Survey of 1607 First News readers, 1057 Mumsnet users in England with at least one child, and 700 teachers and school leaders; the surveys ran between 12 September and 29 September 2016. The data has not been weighted.

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Last updated: about 4 years ago