Mobile Phone Usage in Schools: Should Smartphones be Banned from the Classroom?

18/03/2024 | Czech Republic, News | 0 commenti

Digital media is a significant part of our daily lives, and furthermore, plays an important role in the field of education. However, there is growing concern about the risks associated with the excessive use of mobile devices, particularly amongst school-age children.

Some of these risks include:

  • screen addiction;
  • exposure to harmful content;
  • cyber-bullying, social disruption;
  • and negative impacts on mental health (Kopecký et al., 2021).

In today’s increasingly digital world, it should come as no surprise to learn that young people are spending more time than ever on their phones. According to T-Mobile Czech Republic (TMCZ), most Czech children have their first mobile phone by the time that they enter the first grade, and in a recent study, scientists from Masaryk University found that Czech adolescents spend an average of four hours and eleven minutes on their phones every day – almost one quarter of their waking hours (Blahošová et al., 2023).

In light of these concerns, there is a huge, ongoing debate about the use of mobile devices in schools. The question, really, is simple – should schools permit the use of smartphones in the classroom, or should such the use of such devices be restricted, or even banned?

In their 2023 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report, UNESCO reported that various studies had shown the use of smartphones in class actually distracted students from learning. According to this report:

‘Mere proximity to a mobile device was found to distract students and to have a negative impact on learning in 14 countries…’ (UNESCO, 2023a).

Based on their findings, UNESCO recommended a global ban on smartphones in the classroom. Several European countries, including France, Italy, and Portugal, had previously introduced measures to ban smartphones from classrooms, with positive results, and other nations now appear to be following suit.

In February 2024, for example, the United Kingdom’s Department for Education (DfE) announced a nationwide ban on the use of mobile phones in schools across England (DfE, 2024). The DfE issued a 12-page document, with various guidelines, designed to support school officials in developing appropriate policies to prohibit mobile phone usage during the school day. Although many schools in England already had practices in place to limit or ban the use of mobile phones, these guidelines provide school officials with the authority they need to implement such policies. In a recent interview with Peter Walker, deputy political editor of The Guardian, executive principal Vic Goddard said that prior to the DfE’s announcement, his schools had imposed a complete ban on phones, and that the results had been ‘transformative’ (Walker, 2024).

To date, however, less than 1 in 4 nations across the world have introduced measures to ban smartphone use in schools.

No such ban is currently in effect in the Czech Republic, although the issue of how to regulate children’s use of mobile phones is clearly something that resonates strongly with Czech educators. According to a TMCZ survey, almost all teachers agreed that specific rules should be implemented to govern smartphone usage, but only one third of respondents believed that their schools had functional guidelines in place. In addition, opinion was divided on whether there should be an outright ban on phones in schools, or whether students should be allowed to use them, but only as educational tools. In general, older teachers were in favour of banning phones completely, whilst teachers under the age of 35 were more inclined to view smartphones as teaching aids. This latter viewpoint is in line with the Czech Digital Education Strategy, which promotes the use of mobile devices to enhance digital infrastructure in schools (UNESCO, 2023b). Kopecký et al. (2021), authors of a seminal study on mobile phone usage in Czech primary schools, also advocate for the use of mobile phones in the classroom as educational tools. Rather than an outright ban, which they suggest would only encourage students to use such devices secretly, they argue that digital tools do have a place in education, and that encouraging the responsible use of mobile phones in the classroom will help children learn how to better navigate the digital world, while mitigating potential risks.

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