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23 June 2018

Why We Must Ban Phones in School Now by Jan Moir for the Daily Mail

JAN MOIR: Why we must ban phones in school now...whatever the demanding little wretches might say
By JAN MOIR FOR THE DAILY MAIL, 21 June 2018, updated 22 June 2018

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock says that all pupils'
mobile phones should be confiscated at the start of the
school day.   
Stock picture
Culture Secretary Matt Hancock says that all pupils’ mobile phones should be confiscated at the start of the school day because they have a ‘real impact’ on academic achievement.

When you stop to think about it, just for one second, what is truly remarkable is that this doesn’t happen already.

Meanwhile, the Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman has given her full backing to schools that ban phones completely.

She believes the arguments for having them in schools are ‘dubious at best’ and that they make life miserable for staff trying to teach and pupils trying to learn.

Indeed. How could phones in classrooms not be anything except the most corrosive, endless distraction for all concerned?

Children sit in class, their smartphones buzzing away, providing a delicious conduit to another world. One that is far more exciting than algebra or double French; one in which a torrent of heady guff pours in about Love Island, pop stars, soap gossip, random Kardashian info, sports, games and goals.

And, any spare second they get, the wretches are plugged in and all too ready to be distracted by taking selfies and texting their friends.

Question: how can taking phones to school possibly be good for pupils’ intellectual growth, their ability to concentrate, their proclivity to learn? Answer: it can’t.

However, the kind of precious parenting that means little Jilly and Johnny have to be contactable 24/7 means some mothers and fathers happily encourage school phones, while others are simply worn down by their demanding offspring.

Especially if they keep hearing: ‘Everyone else in class has one. God, I hate you.’

That is why these new directives from the Government and education bosses are so welcome. Schools are being actively and officially encouraged to ban phones — something that might come in handy when furious parents start rioting because their little darlings’ human rights have been violated.

To be honest, my relationship with my own iPhone is not entirely healthy. It lurks in my bag, a tempting distraction, a forever friend.

Sudoku, games of Words With Friends with my sister, a check to see who is baking what on Instagram, Googling useless things, messaging, micromanaging unimportant aspects of my life while walking under a bus, metaphorically speaking.

All this and photographs of dogs doing amusing things, too? I find it harder to concentrate or read a book than I once did — and surely reading all that tiny, illuminated print can’t be good for your eyesight?

Sometimes, it is a relief when I leave the damn thing behind. But listen, kids, I am a conscientious adult with responsibilities, not an easily distracted teenager like you.

Without mobile phones, children could learn to daydream, get bored, become resilient, think for themselves, learn to live inside their own minds. Yet, umbilically attached to the devices, there is no chance to develop an imagination — perhaps even a personality.

Social media is a non-stop torrent of menacing proof the human race is no longer evolving, but regressing back to a dimmer, duller age. And we haven’t even got to the porn yet.

I asked a YPWUT (Young Person Who Understands Technology) to show me how easy it is to access porn on a smartphone.

Foolishly, I had imagined there would be barriers — some process of signing up or handing over personal details for security. An age limit enforced, with some sort of proof required? How naïve.

Click, click, click — whoa! Before you could say: ‘Mummy, that lady isn’t wearing any pants,’ there we were, deep in the land of hardcore, with action clips in full Technicolor, no details spared.

And it is no secret that children are also exposed to bullying, aggression, sextortion and abuse, as vulnerable as hatchlings in an abandoned nest.

David Cameron’s plans to crack down on internet porn, blocking it unless homeowners specifically opted in, eventually came to nothing, crippled by EU rules. But he was on the right track.

How can parents safeguard their children? New apps such as SafeToNet provide tools that enable them to remotely monitor and manage their child’s usage.

That’s one positive. Encouraging a new culture where they don’t expect to have endless access to their phones, during school hours and beyond, is another.

According to Ofcom, 83 per cent of 12 to 15-year-olds have a smartphone and half of all children have a social media profile by the age of 12.

There is no doubt that all of this has an adverse impact on young people’s mental health.

So, with the Culture Secretary and Ofsted on board, schools just have to be brave, plug their ears to the howls of dismay and ban phones from classrooms. Now.


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