Larry Flanagan: Schools need phone rules

New guidance on mobile phone use in classrooms needed. Picture: Sean Bell
New guidance on mobile phone use in classrooms needed. Picture: Sean Bell
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TO text or not to text, that is the question. The recently published report on behaviour in Scottish schools has revealed growing concern amongst teachers at the level of mobile phone misuse in schools.

It is common place today for almost all pupils to have a mobile phone with them and despite school policies about phones being switched off in class time, their surreptitious use has become another bane for teachers anxious to push on with teaching and learning.

At a basic level the practice of texting in class represents a lack of attention. What can be more worrying than two pupils carrying on a playground conversation, however, is when the mobile phone becomes the medium for bullying. Abusive text messages can be incredibly hurtful and the viral nature of some of the messages only adds to the problem. Mobile phones also carry a camera and video function and this is often the area of greatest concern. Inappropriate filming of both pupils and staff can lead to very serious scenarios for young people, who may often think that they are being funny without realising that they are crossing the boundary of acceptable behaviour.

On the other hand, some teachers make effective use of mobiles as part of the learning and teaching process, in a similar fashion to the use of computers and other aspects of IT.

Ultimately, the mobile phone is simply a piece of technology. Pupils need to understand when it is appropriate to use their phones and when they should be switched off. Clear guidance should be offered by school policy, with effective sanctions for when the rules are broken.

• Larry Flanagan is EIS General Secretary