Matt Hancock urges schools to ban phones
Culture secretary says evidence shows that outlawing the use of mobiles is effective
Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images
Matt Hancock has urged headteachers across the country to prohibit the use of mobile phones by children during the school day.
Writing in The Telegraph, the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport acknowledged that policies on phone use are “up to individual schools, rather than government”. But Hancock expressed his admiration for school leaders “who take a firm approach, and do not allow mobiles to be used during the school day”.
“I encourage more schools to look at the evidence and follow their lead,” he added. “The evidence is that banning phones in schools works. Studies have shown that mobile phones can have a real impact on working memory and fluid intelligence, even if the phone is on a table or in a bag.”
The culture secretary said that, while he “enthusiastically supports using technology for teaching”, the use of personal devices by children can be harmful.
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“If a child is being bullied during the day and they have access to social media, the bullying doesn’t necessarily stop when they walk out of the school gate,” he said. “I want bullying to be as unacceptable on online platforms as it is in the playground.”
Hancock added: “Why do young children need phones in schools? There are a number of schools across the country that simply don’t allow them. I believe that very young children don’t need to have access to social media. They are children after all. They need to be able to develop their social skills in the real world first.”
The culture secretary said that not just schools, but parents, government, and technology companies “all have a role to play… to support a new generation of digital citizens”.
“From Apple’s overnight switch-off feature, to Facebook allowing users to ‘report safe’ after disasters, we have seen a number of solutions where technology has been used to address its own problems,” Hancock said.
For its part, the government will bring in “tough” new laws to support its ambition to make the UK the world’s safest place to go online, according to the culture secretary.
“We must consider legislation that tackles the full range of online harms, from cyberbullying to online child sexual exploitation,” he said. “But legislation is just one part of the solution. Working with civil society, we have a moral responsibility to build an internet for the next generation that is transformative, exciting, and free, but also protects those who use it.”
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