From an educator
Several educators have contacted me about the ever-increasing problem of mobile phones in our schools. Some parents are at odds with the school as they want mobile phones to be allowed. What follows are some of the reasons why mobile phones, in my opinion, are detrimental to our students.
In our role as educators, we come across issues related to mobile phones on a daily basis. First and foremost, there is the problem of students cyberbullying each other, which then continues physically in schools. There are issues of self-esteem, where students are teased for the content that they have uploaded online. There is also the circulation of inappropriate material.
Then, there is an issue related to learning. Mobile phones in schools lead to poor academic performance. Students are more concerned about scrolling their mobile, rather than the learning occurring around them. This was confirmed in 2015 in a study done by the London School of Economics. This study reported that a 6.4% improvement in the test scores of 16-year-olds was seen when schools in four English cities banned phones. Pupils from a lower-income or disadvantaged background experienced the biggest boost in marks. The study can be found here. A more recent study published in 2020 confirms what was found in 2015. Students in Spain fared better academically after mobiles were banned in schools. Besides, levels of bullying dropped. This paper can be read here.
All of the above show that the Maltese educational system is on the right side of history when it bans mobile phones from school premises. Parents should be made aware of these issues, and studies have shown what detrimental effects mobile phones have on pupils. Some parents just cannot understand why their son/daughter has their mobile phone confiscated or why their offspring are being given an after-school or are being excluded from school for such an offence. This is being done to the benefit of their own children.
Mobile phones have become such an integral part of our lifestyle that parents expect their children to have one by their side every time, including during lessons. The truth is that schools are always ready to phone if a student needs to talk to a parent during school hours.
I don’t want that this sounds degressive but mobiles are prohibited to drivers while driving their cars because mobiles distract their attention from the roads. The same holds for students. The use of mobiles in school, in particular during lessons, distracts the students’ attention from learning. Even during breaks, mobile phones should not be allowed so that cases of cyberbullying are prevented and students can be only focused on what sociologists term “primary socialization” and “cognitive development”.
For all this to be achieved, school leaders have to be resilient and strong and strive not to allow the use of such devices in schools.