Editor's comment: Same old cries of ‘get off the phone’ but with a new ring

You've been on for an hour … what if somebody is trying to call us? Ah, those childhood memories for everyone who only had landlines to rely on rather than mobile phones.

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 4:45 pm
Inside an old phone box.

Phones have long been a source of family consternation but are now leading to government policy.

Yesterday, education secretary Gavin Williamson said that a year spent in lockdown has impacted on children’s “discipline and order”. As such, the Department for Education is set to announce details of a £10 million “behaviour hub” programme. Banning mobiles in schools a key part of the plans because, apparently, they not only distract from “exercise and good old-fashioned play”, but incite cyber bullying and the inappropriate use of social media.

I don’t think any of us would disagree that discipline is a key part of growing up and sadly lacking in many young lives. But, I have neither confidence that this plan will make any difference nor that we have the right man in place to make these decisions. How much time has any member of our government ever spent in an average classroom?

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How do little ones learn without having good examples in front of them all the time? The truth is, they can’t – but dictating that phones aren’t allowed won’t solve that. In fact, banning things is often the very best way to make people want to revolt and do the exact opposite. Mobile phones are addictive and overuse is bad in many ways. That is just as true for adults as it is for children so how do we convince everyone, ourselves included, that there is life beyond that small screen?

I’d suggest using them constructively for small amounts of time and showing the real benefit would be a good place to start. We need to teach children how to protect themselves from online bullying, why real conversation is so important, how to spot fake photos, incorrect information and scams which can make their lives a real misery. But instead we seem to be opting for a ban – leaving them to spend even longer on their phones outside of school … without helping them to protect themselves.

Hang up … somebody might be trying to get through. That is still as true now as it was when I was a teenager, only now it applies to people already in the room with you.