The Beacon School Leaderboard 09/05

Can Children Use Their Phones Productively?

These days once children get to a certain age, they can seem to be almost glued to their phones. Many parents will try to impose a ban on mobile phones at dinner or at other key times - but this can be hard to enforce and come up against a lot of resistance.

Mobile phones in schools can be a big problem for all concerned, but what if we could show children how to use their phones productively rather than trying to stop them from using them all together.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders has said that rather than attempt to ban phones completely, they should instead allow phones at certain times and show children how they can use them productively.

"Ultimately young people are looking to us to model how technology is used in a productive way. The classroom is the perfect place to be able to do that with a mobile phone.”

Until now the discussion around young people and mobile phones has focused on whether they should be banned in schools, and how to curb their use at home. Mr Barton’s comments suggest a third way, where we show our children how they can use their phones productively, and crucially not become obsessed by or dependent upon them.

How do we do this? By looking at our own mobile use. If a parent is forever looking at their mobile screen, it stands to reason that a child will consider this normal behaviour. Mobile phones have become incredibly useful, allowing us to do everything from take a photo to speak to people on the other side of the world. We have the entire internet literally at our fingertips… but if we’re honest, many of us use our mobile phones to play silly games or to scroll through social media.

By being more mindful about our mobile use, and by aiming to use our own mobile phones for more productive purposes, we can show our children to do the same.

In terms of school work, a mobile phone can be an incredibly useful resource. It can be used to Google for answers, to take photos of notes, to research topics in depth, to view a webcam of a geographical area hundreds of miles away. All of these are positive things that should be encouraged and included within lessons and homework time. The trick is in making the distinction between productive use of a mobile phone and the potentially destructive scrolling and time wasting.

If we can make this distinction for ourselves as parents, it is easier to pass this on to our children. A good place to start may be an app such as Quality Time or Rescue Time which can show you how much time you are spending on each app per day or week. This can be an eye-opening experience, but gives a good starting point for being more mindful about time wasting, and aiming to be more productive.

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