• In July 2023, UNESCO called for a global ban on smartphones in schools to tackle classroom disruption and prevent cyberbullying. So, there has been a growing debate about whether or not smartphones should be banned in schools.

In Favour of a ban:

  • Distraction: Smartphones are a major distraction in the classroom. Students are easily tempted to use them to text, play games, or access social media instead of paying attention to the lesson. This can lead to lower test scores and increased disciplinary problems.
  • Cheating: Smartphones can be used to cheat on tests. They can easily access notes, search the internet for answers, or even collaborate with others via messaging apps. This not only compromises the integrity of the educational system but also prevents students from developing essential critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
  • Social Interaction: The overuse of smartphones in the classroom can hinder the development of important social skills. When students are engrossed in their devices, they may miss out on opportunities for in-person interactions, such as group discussions or class debates, which are crucial for their personal and academic growth.
  • Teacher-Student Interaction: Smartphones can create a barrier between teachers and students. When students are constantly checking their phones, it can be challenging for teachers to maintain a productive and engaging classroom environment. Effective communication and feedback between teachers and students can suffer as a result.
  • Cyberbullying: The use of smartphones in the classroom can facilitate cyberbullying. Some students may send hurtful messages, share embarrassing photos or videos, or engage in other harmful behaviours using their phones. Schools have a responsibility to protect students from such digital harassment, and banning smartphones can help address this issue.
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Against ban:

  • Educational benefits: Smartphones can be used for educational purposes. Students can use them to research topics, take notes, or collaborate on projects. This can help them to learn more effectively and efficiently.
  • Emergency communication: Smartphones can be used to communicate in an emergency. Students can use them to call for help if they are in danger.
  • Connection with parents and guardians: Smartphones can be used to stay connected with parents and guardians. Students can use them to text or call home if they need to.
  • Preparation for the Future: In an increasingly digital and connected world, it is essential to prepare students for the future. Banning smartphones could hinder their ability to adapt to the technology-driven society they will encounter outside of school. Teaching students how to use smartphones responsibly equips them with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st-century workforce.

The present situation in India:

  • The use of smartphones in Indian schools is a controversial topic. Some schools ban them outright, while others allow them with restrictions.
  • A majority of schools in India ban the use of smartphones in classrooms. According to a survey by the National Association of Secondary School Principals, 65% of schools in India ban the use of smartphones in classrooms.
  • However, recently there has been a growing trend of schools allowing smartphones with restrictions. Some schools allow students to use their phones during breaks or lunch, but not during class time. Others require students to keep their phones in their backpacks or lockers during the school day.
  • As smartphones become more and more important, schools are trying to find new ways to use smartphones effectively in the classroom while minimizing the risks.
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The debate over banning smartphones in schools is a complex one, and there is no easy answer. However, many believe that the best approach is to find a way to integrate smartphones into the classroom in a way that minimizes the risks and maximizes the benefits.

The approach that some schools have taken, to allow controlled smartphone use during specific times, such as during breaks or lunch, seems like a good idea. This would allow students to use their phones for educational purposes, such as researching topics or collaborating on projects. It would also allow them to stay connected with their friends and family.

Schools should also emphasize digital literacy to prepare students for the technology-driven world beyond the classroom. This includes teaching students about responsible technology use, cyberbullying, and online safety. By taking these steps, schools can help to ensure that smartphones are used in a way that benefits students and prepares them for the future.

Photo by Anil Sharma

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