Scotland’s newest secondary – which is due to open its doors for the first time at the beginning of the new school year – is set to introduce an enforced “social media detox” for its pupils by banning phones during schools hours.
Bertha Park High in Perth and Kinross plans to introduce a “non- negotiable” mobile phone ban for the entirety of the school day, with pupils storing their phones in their lockers from 8.55am to 3.40pm. For the purposes of learning each pupil will be provided with an iPad.
The move has been welcomed by clinical psychologist Linda Blair who told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme today that the school was “absolutely not” overstepping the mark.
Short read: 'Schools should model mobile use, not ban them'
She described the decision as “wonderful”, adding: “We know that using your mobile phone disrupts concentration span and focus and that effect lasts. Also we know the addiction to phones is a big problem with young people – a lot of young people say so themselves. To have some rules that make them learn when they can and when they can’t, that they have to turn them off sometimes, is great.”
However, on Twitter some parents have expressed concern, with one commenting that her son’s phone “proved a lifeline” due to bullying. Another contributor, meanwhile, pointed out that there would need to be exceptions for those that use their mobile phones as a medical device – for instance, children with diabetes who use it to monitor blood glucose.
The school, however, argues on its website that there is significant support among parents and teachers for “a social media detox” and that access to social media can be “a serious distraction”, “a source of antisocial and undesirable conduct”, as well as potentially contributing to “mental ill health”.
The school added that phone calls and texts home from pupils “experiencing challenges” could be “unnecessarily alarming for parents”.
It said that pupils wishing to contact home could do so via the school office, as could parents wishing to contact their children.
Parents are told: “Please ensure that all pupils are aware of this most basic arrangement. It is not negotiable and is just part of the way our school will operate.”
Kilgraston School – an independent all-girls school some 10 miles away from Bertha Park – banned mobile phones at the beginning of last year.
Writing for Tes Scotland, the headteacher described the impact as “astonishing”. She quoted a teacher who had told her the policy had resulted in “a palpable sense of relief among the girls, as if a storm has passed over their heads and life is returned to normal”.
However, there are those – such as Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders – who believe that rather than banning phones schools should model appropriate use.