Yesterday I went to a new intake meeting for my daughter's soon to be secondary school.
During the presentation, the Head of Year said that the school had made a decision to ban the use of mobile phones during school hours from September. This would be actioned by automatic confiscation of any phone seen out of a school bag / pocket once inside the school gates.
The reasons given included that students were increasingly using phones to video school activities and then post them on social networking sites, which I agree is inappropriate. Another reason is that students text each other from one end of the dinner queue to the other, which the head felt was completely pointless. I can see his point, but I am learning that just because I wouldn't do it, doesn't mean I should expect my children not to. They live in a different technological bubble to us oldies (well, almost oldies!).
The final reason, which gave me the greatest cause for concern, is that the school have had instances where students have been 'bullied' via social networking sites or through a series of text messages, and that the school are then having to deal with the repercussions of this in school hours. This is where our views clearly differ:
A school wouldn't dream of trying to brush playground bullying under the carpet. Most schools in the UK have very clear and firm policies for dealing with bullying, and certainly in both the schools my children have attended, bullying is not tolerated in any circumstances. Yet banning mobile phones seems very much to me as though the school are trying to turn a blind eye to an increasingly common problem. By telling the kids to put their phones away, we are not helping them to deal with difficult and inappropriate activities, we are instead giving them the message that we are not interested.
I really believe that we need to equip our children to deal with all aspects of social networking and technology - whether good or bad. I have taught my children not to reveal their identities online just as I have told them never to get in a car with a stranger. I've also explained to them that 'cyber bullying' is just as unacceptable, and I have supported them on the odd occasion when they have felt undermined by an unkind text or post from a 'friend'. I want the school to be teaching them safe networking habits, praising good use of technology and explaining the consequences of bad. Those 'anti-social networks' that the Head talked about are a fully integrated part of our children's lives, and we, as parents and teachers, have a responsibility to help our children learn how to manage them. To imagine that we can prevent them from using such tools by simply confiscating their phones would be madness.