Mobile phones should be banned from classrooms and pupils need to be lectured about the dangers of device dependency, the schools minister has said.
Nick Gibb said he had concerns about the impact excessive phone use was having on children, and said the government would introduce lessons for pupils on how to limit their screen time.
“Schools obviously are free to set their own behaviour policies but my own view is that schools should ban mobile telephones and smartphones inside school, and particularly inside classrooms,” he told The Times. “I believe very strongly that children should be limiting their own use at home. Every hour spent online and on a smartphone is an hour less talking to family, and it’s an hour less exercise and it’s an hour less sleep.
“And of course it is a lack of sleep that research is showing can have a damaging effect on a child’s mental health.”
His comments came weeks after an Oxford University study concluded that using phones, tablets and laptops was no worse for teenagers’ mental health than eating more potatoes. Researchers examined data on more than 300,000 adolescents in both America and the UK to ascertain what impact various factors had on wellbeing.
However, Rutgers University in the United States last year concluded students scored the equivalent of half a grade less in end-of-term tests if they were allowed to use their devices for non-academic reasons in their classes.
Children will also be told to break off at least every two hours and avoid social media before bedtime, according to guidance from chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies, The Daily Mail reported. Parents will be told to limit children’s screen time to protect their health.
The UK would be following in the footsteps of European counterparts if schools were to introduce a mobile phone ban, with French pupils being told to leave their smartphones at home when they returned from their summer holidays last year.
Teachers in the UK have also complained about pupils being distracted or using the phones to take upskirt images of staff in the classroom.
Mr Gibb is the latest figure in education to support such a move, with former Ofsted head Sir Michael Wilshaw saying devices were disrupting lessons.
Speaking at the Festival of Education at Wellington College last summer, Sir Michael said that “any sensible head would ban mobile phones”.
He added: “It’s interesting that President Macron is now bringing in legislation in France to ban mobile phones in state schools in France. We should do the same here. It’s far too distracting for children having mobile phones. Texting, sexting, all this takes place. Mobile phones go off in classrooms disrupting lessons. Ban them.
“If children want to use a phone in an emergency they can use the school phone.”
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