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Hinds: 'Schools should be phone-free - but I won't ban them'

Students need a ‘technology-free zone’ at school but banning mobiles should be up to heads, says education secretary

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Students need a ‘technology-free zone’ at school but banning mobiles should be up to heads, says education secretary

Education secretary Damian Hinds says he is “worried” about nursery children spending too much time in front of computer screens.

Mr Hinds also spoke of “big issues” for children and young people surrounding social media, including the “depiction of perfect lives and body image” as well as cyberbullying and "children not knowing the difference between social media friends and actual friends”.

However he has ruled out a blanket ban on mobile phones in schools – as has happened in France.

Speaking at the launch of the Confederation of Schools Trusts at the British Museum today, Mr Hinds told academy chiefs that he believed in giving autonomy to headteachers to make their own mobile phone policies in their individual schools.

He said: “I don’t want kids in schools to be using their mobile phones because having a zone in their lives where they are free from technology is a good thing. But when people ask me if I’m going to implement the French model I say no – and that is autonomy in practice.”

Following the speech, Mr Hinds told journalists that government figures showed the majority of schools had restrictions on mobile phones and that some had banned them outright.

He said: “There is a big issue with technology, and it’s not just about phones but about social media in general.”

He added: “I have visited nurseries where children are having far too much screen time too early and of course that is worrying. I’m not a child psychologist, but you don't have to be an expert to know that a healthy childhood is not about mostly looking at screens."

Mr Hinds also called on device manufacturers and software developers to make it easier for parents and teachers to know how to restrict access to certain content, although he admitted there are educational aspects to the technology.

He added: “Our challenge is making sure the next generation can programme computers and make artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, voice computing and face recognition, and make them really work for us, for our economy and our progress.”

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