Should Children have Mobile Phones in Schools?
As technology becomes more and more prevalent in our children’s lives it is likely that you will come to a point where you consider whether or not to let your child have a mobile phone in school. But with all the safety issues associated with mobile phones in schools do the pros outweigh the cons of children having them?
Do Children need Mobile Phones in School?
I guess the first thing that has always been at the top of my thoughts is do they really need them? Honestly what could they possible need a mobile phone in school for – we never had them in my day? But the world has moved on from then, I know personally I use mine so much – from basics such as an alarm, or spot light – to all manner of apps tracking how much exercise I do, booking my food shop, checking train times, keeping on top of mail – and that’s without even the social side!
Mobile phones allow children to be more independent without parents/carers worrying so much. They can get themselves to school – but contact us if any problems occur; letting us know if they will be late home (or ask if they can go straight to the park or a friend’s house). They can use the calendar to set up alerts and reminders (such as non-school uniform day, class photos or a field trip) and make notes of things they need to remember (like when their homework is due). The world is a lot less paper and pen these days, learning to text is the modern equivalent – and a new kind of shorthand with learning abbreviations and emoticons. Not forgetting all the educational apps they can download to their devices. Yes there is a lot of pros to letting children have mobile phones in schools from a parents’ point of view.
Parental Concerns when it comes to Mobile Phones in Schools
How much Children will use their Mobile Phone in School. Let’s face it we do not want our children glued to screens all the time – it simply isn’t good for them (it has even been linked to lower academic performance). Plus If their mobile phone distracts them within school they may end up falling behind with their work and/or getting into trouble with their teacher (which could mean after school detentions – or even worse if they are caught cheating on a test with their mobile phone!). If they are concentrating too much on their mobile phone and not the road on the way to and from school then this could cause road safety issues! Parents may want the security of knowing their children are okay at school, but do they really want children contacting them about every little thing?
Bullying is a concern for many parents – what if the mobile phone isn’t “good enough” or is stolen. But also there’s cyberbullying – what if your child has pictures or videos taken of them – with someone doing something nasty to them, or are sent nasty messages via social media platforms. Or what if their child IS the bully – this could result in putting others in danger by sharing personal information (such as what school they are at, their route home etc) or making another child feel so bad that they take their own life. Children are vulnerable and can feel pressured into engaging in more risky behaviour either by accident or by design – peer pressure is much harder to get away from when it follows you around! They may not understand the impact of their online behaviour and their parents may not understand the latest social media platforms which they are on. Not to mention that they may be the targets of aggressive advertising and marketing messages and a distorted view of the world (such as what a real body image is like).
Of course then there are the problems associated with Internet Safety – children may end up accessing inappropriate material (including the promotion of harmful behaviours, inaccurate and extreme views, and inappropriate sexual-content); over share information online; and make themselves vulnerable to predators (for blackmail and extortion/sexual grooming and stalking): Which could also result in infections, online attacks, identity theft and hacking and other cyber-crimes (such as having access to passwords and other financial details).
Solutions for Keeping Children Mobile Safe at School
Talk to your child/ren: Education is key. Whether it is about something they have seen that upsets them online, bullying and just generally things they come across online, children should know that there is a trusted adult that they can always come and talk to. Have conversations about important topics such as what they access and what should not be shared online (for example not sharing naked images of themselves); how to keep their devices hidden when not in use; how to keep themselves safe with the correct privacy settings (including tagging of photos and geo-tagging) and the use of secure passwords, about viruses and spyware by careless or misinformed use of their mobile phone; how to report and block; and their digital footprint – that once something is online it can be captured and sent on. Show them websites that help explain online safety such as the NSPCC and set boundaries together. You may want to agree on things like: Only talking to people who they really know are their friends – and not a friend of a friend online, what they share and how much time they spend online.
Of course sometimes talking isn’t enough and we still need to protect our children. Parents can stay up to date with social media with Net-aware – then if they still want to use ones you really do not approve of you can download apps onto your child’s mobile phone to help with children’s online safety such as Kapersky. Through the My Kapersky Portal Security family package allows up to 20 individual accounts very easily, tailored to the age and maturity of each user. You can monitor and restrict online activity (blocking access to such categories as: adult content, software, audio, video, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, violence, profanity, weapons, gambling, sweepstakes, e-commerce, HTTP query redirection, computer games, religious content, and news media) dependent on user for both time (including which times as well as the amount of) and content (with either complete blocking or a warning that the child can chose to ignore – parents then have control as to whether they allow their child to carry on). It can tell you where your child’s device is located in real time too (great for ensuring your child is where they are meant to be or finding it if it is stolen!) It even sends a warning to parents if the app is tried to be uninstalled. Of course Kapersky isn’t full-proof and children can still come across many of the problems above – there is no substitute for talking. But in this digital age that surely isn’t a bad thing: We want to protect them not restrict them.
In conclusion, I think that this sums things up: “Instead of taking away internet use, parents should help children use their time online to learn new skills or exercise their creativity, rather than spending all their time on social media sites” (source). At the end of the day we live in a digital age and the best way to keep children mobile safe is to educate them, utilising other resources to keep parents knowledge up-to-date and giving children that extra protection when needed – such as when taking mobile phones to school.
This is a commissioned piece.