Educate older pupils on acceptable use of mobile phones

Walking in the countryside last weekend with my twenty-five year old son and husband I was amused when for the first forty minutes of our stroll my son was using his mobile phone to negotiate a phone upgrade. To him he needed to multi-task and a walk was a perfect opportunity to telephone his network provider whilst still holding a conversation with his parents during the long pauses when he was “on hold”. He managed an in depth discussion with his father about Brexit whilst also beating down the price on a new phone contract. It made me consider how much this has become the norm.

A new law banning pupils up to the age of 15 from using their mobile phones in school came into force in France in September. Students are forced to switch them off or leave them at home. From now on they will only be able to use them in cases of emergency.

To me this is a difficult law to enforce. It is almost impossible to determine what would be considered an emergency. Pupils contact parents and visa versa to let them know of travel delays or changes to the arrangements already agreed. Are these considered important enough to constitute an emergency? Furthermore, mobile phones may be used as an additional resource in the correct circumstances, for example, as a notebook.

I prefer to educate our older pupils on acceptable use. Mobile phones have their positives and they are, for most, a normal life accessory. Very few young people use them as a phone – they are a messaging service, a camera, an encyclopaedia, a diary – I could go on. They do have a dark side when used inappropriately and difficult for schools to control as most misuse goes on out of the school day.

Home and school need to work together to help pupils understand the benefits and the disadvantages to owning a phone. Digital addiction to over-use is not just via a phone but also includes other technology devices.

Jane Prescott, Headmistress, Portsmouth High School  GDST

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