Smartphones should be handed to children only when they turn 16, says school behavior expert

One question that mostly all parents have on their mind: When should you give a smartphone to your kid? Or do you think your son or daughter is mature enough to handle the responsibility of a phone?

On one hand, where mobile devices can be powerful tools for learning, communicating and teaching kids responsibility, on the other hand, parents should take steps to understand how mobile technology works and teach their children about mobile safety and responsibility.

To understand this better, the Government has decided to conduct a review into the way technology affects behavior of the pupils in schools.

According to Tom Bennett, the school behaviour expert who is leading the review is of the opinion that the children should not be allowed smartphones until they are 16. Mr Bennett, who is already leading another review into how teachers are trained to handle bad behavior, also says that unless it is extremely necessary, teachers should not allow smartphones in the class.

He has now been requested to review the greater challenges of handling modern classrooms. Even though technology can increase learning, officials warn that teachers have indicated that the increasing number of children coming with digital devices to class is causing disturbance in the class.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister said “We need to make sure the advice we give to schools, and the approaches being used are fit for the 21st century when even primary school pupils may be bringing in phones or tablets. That is why we have taken the decision to expand Tom Bennett’s review to look at how teachers can tackle bad behavior. Whether it is the use of mobile phones or the attitudes of parents to their child’s behaviour in class, we will now probe deeper into behaviour to ensure that no child has to put up with having their education disrupted by misbehavior.”

Surrounded by concerns over cyberbullying and online pornography, many of the schools have put in place policy regarding the usage of smartphones. However, the using of smartphones is not uniform, as it ranges from zero-tolerance to partial bans.

“I think smartphones in a classroom represent an enormous level of temptation for students, but that isn’t to say that I would ban them,” said Mr Bennett. “My personal recommendation is that schools think very cautiously and carefully before allowing them. I think the default should be that they are not allowed unless teachers invite them for some specific reason.”

He said that children are getting exposed and have access to technology at a very young age. “People ask me, ‘When should I give my child a smartphone?’ and I say, ‘Whenever you’re comfortable with them viewing pornography’, because their curiosity will take them there.

“My personal belief is that I don’t think a child should have a smartphone until they are 16, unless it is under adult supervision.”

Phone use was a child protection issue, he said. “Most parents would supervise in some way internet access for children, and I think it would be an absurd proposition to say that schools shouldn’t do that because we are looking after their safety. I don’t want children in playgrounds swapping pornographic pictures or pictures of horrific scenes or racist websites or whatever. I want to know roughly what they are looking at, and that includes in school.”

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers who replied to the review into smartphones, said: “It is important to remember that technology, including the use of smartphones, can be part of successful teaching and learning strategies.”

“We do not believe it is the role of government or Ofsted to micromanage how schools address these issues which are the remit of school leaders,” said Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.

“Smartphones are powerful technologies which most people use in their working lives therefore schools must teach young people to use them responsibly. How they do that is a professional judgement.”

In schools, basically behavior standards were patchy said Mr Bennett. “The reason is there isn’t a formal process for leaders to be trained into creating and maintaining good behavior systems.”

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