Why banning phones in schools may hinder digital evolution

The debate over phone bans

The use of mobile phones in schools has been a controversial topic for many years. Some argue that phones are a distraction and a source of cyberbullying, while others claim that they are a valuable tool for learning and communication. Recently, the UK government announced that it will issue new guidance to schools on restricting the use of phones by students. The move follows similar policies adopted by other countries, such as France, which banned phones in primary and middle schools in 2018.

However, not everyone agrees with the idea of banning phones in schools. Pat Kane, a writer and musician, wrote an opinion piece for The National, a Scottish newspaper, in which he argued that phone bans may rob kids of digital evolution. He said that phones are not just devices, but extensions of our minds and bodies, and that they enable us to access a vast amount of information and creativity. He also said that phone bans may widen the digital divide between rich and poor students, and that they may prevent students from developing critical skills for the future, such as digital literacy, media literacy, and data literacy.

The benefits of phones in education

According to Kane, phones can be used in education in various ways, such as:

  • Enhancing learning outcomes: Phones can help students learn more effectively, by providing them with personalized feedback, adaptive learning, gamification, and augmented reality. For example, a study by the University of Nottingham found that using a mobile app to teach fractions improved students’ test scores and engagement.
  • Promoting collaboration and communication: Phones can facilitate collaboration and communication among students and teachers, by allowing them to share ideas, resources, and feedback. For example, a project by the University of Edinburgh used WhatsApp to connect students from different countries and cultures, and to foster intercultural dialogue and understanding.

Why banning phones in schools may hinder digital evolution

  • Supporting creativity and innovation: Phones can enable students to express their creativity and innovation, by giving them access to various tools and platforms, such as digital storytelling, podcasting, video editing, and coding. For example, a program by the British Council called Apps for Good taught students how to design and develop mobile apps that solve real-world problems.

The challenges of phones in education

However, Kane also acknowledged that phones can pose some challenges in education, such as:

  • Distracting students from learning: Phones can divert students’ attention from learning, by tempting them to use social media, games, or other apps that are not related to their studies. For example, a study by the London School of Economics found that banning phones in schools improved students’ academic performance, especially for low-achieving students.
  • Exposing students to cyber risks: Phones can expose students to cyber risks, such as cyberbullying, online predators, sexting, and identity theft. For example, a survey by the NSPCC found that one in four children in the UK had experienced something upsetting on a social networking site.
  • Creating digital inequalities: Phones can create digital inequalities among students, by depending on their access to devices, data, and digital skills. For example, a report by the Children’s Commissioner for England found that children from low-income families were more likely to have limited or no access to the internet at home, and that this affected their learning and well-being.

The need for a balanced approach

Kane concluded his article by calling for a balanced approach to the use of phones in schools, one that recognizes both their benefits and challenges, and that empowers students to use them responsibly and creatively. He said that banning phones in schools may be a short-term solution, but it may also be a missed opportunity to prepare students for the digital future. He suggested that instead of banning phones, schools should teach students how to use them wisely, ethically, and safely, and how to harness their potential for learning and innovation.

By Ishan Crawford

Prior to the position, Ishan was senior vice president, strategy & development for Cumbernauld-media Company since April 2013. He joined the Company in 2004 and has served in several corporate developments, business development and strategic planning roles for three chief executives. During that time, he helped transform the Company from a traditional U.S. media conglomerate into a global digital subscription service, unified by the journalism and brand of Cumbernauld-media.

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