Smartphones are blamed for everything from distracting pupils from their work to fuelling teenagers’ porn addictions.
But others claim the devices can be vital learning tools.
Now, a new poll of nearly 3,500 teachers, parents and school children reveals the extent to which people are divided on the issue.
Exactly half of the teachers and school leaders who took part in the survey – carried out by TES in parallel with similar polls by parenting website Mumsnet and children’s newspaper First News – thought pupils should be banned from bringing their smartphones into school.
The proportion was slightly lower among the schoolchildren (44 per cent) and parents (47 per cent) who responded. Opponents of smartphones in schools say they cause high levels of disruption in class, distract pupils and encourage sexting and cyberbullying.
But Peter Twining, professor of the future of education at the Open University, said that rather than banning phones, schools should include them in lessons.
“Schools can’t afford all the [technological] kit they need; it seems bonkers not to take advantage of the fact that young people have this technology in their pockets that they could use for educational purposes,” he said.
Addressing concerns that such a move would discriminate against pupils who don’t own smartphones, Professor Twining said that most secondary school pupils today have phones and they are nearly always smartphones.
However, teachers can find that phones are a major distraction in classrooms, and some pupils agree. Heidi, age 14, speaking to First News, which is aimed at seven- to 14-year-olds, said she was pleased phones were banned in her school because “everyone is more concentrated on their work and it’s much less distracting in class".
The survey was completed by 1,607 First News readers, 1,057 Mumsnet users in England and 700 teachers and school leaders.
This is an edited article from the 23 September edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article here. To subscribe, click here. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. You can also download the TES Reader app for Android and iOs.