It is widely known that staring at a screen all day makes people less sociable and can distract us from reality. However, our phones are a wealth of information at our fingertips, as well as a necessity for emergencies.
Some schools have taken to banning phones for learners during school time, with roaring success. A recent trial of this approach at a secondary school in Wales yielded pleasant results. According to Walesonline, exam results improved, as well as students’ behaviour.
The ban, which has been running for a year, has “made a massive difference” said Ann Webb, headteacher at Ysgol John Bright, in Llandudno.
The strict rule applies at any time during the school day, even during breaks or at lunchtime. Staff are also asked not to use mobile phones in front of pupils. Webb said that pupils are now more sociable and concentrate better in lessons. “Because they’re not glued to their phones when they arrive at school, they have to engage in social communication and when they go to the library they’re looking at books instead of their phones or they’re discussing things with their peers,” she adds.
There are also other countries implementing this rule. The ban is already effective in France, with research showing that limited phone use in schools directly correlates to exam success, partly because of an increase in concentration. The same study also reported that “restricting mobile phone use can be a low-cost policy to reduce educational inequalities,” another key benefit for many schools. Advocates believe that reduced screen time also reduces the impact of social media which can lead to bullying. It also reduces phone theft, which can be an issue in some schools.
The question for us, of course, is whether it is feasible on home ground. The National Association of School Governing Bodies (NASGB) has called for a ban in South African schools in the past, but it has not been implemented. The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) says while there are some negative perceptions about the use of cell phones at schools, the use of mobile devices for educational purposes can outweigh the disadvantages, according to News24.
The use of cell phones as learning tools in classrooms and resources for research is the primary counter. However, WCED acknowledges that the use of mobile devices needs to be managed thoughtfully and responsibly to ensure the protection of children.
“The government has a duty to ensure that learning and teaching take place without hindrance. In as much as cell phones are at times a distraction, we can no longer avoid the necessity of e-learning in our schools,” education activist Hendrick Makaneta told IOL.
With research showing this much success in other countries, South Africa’s Department of Education might look into reconsidering this this rule.