A Message from NMS Head of IT Department, Annemieke Akkermans

Banning mobile phones in school?

February 6th was Safer Internet Day – why not spend five minutes on this topic and give your feedback below.

Ten years ago, pro-tech teachers like myself were mostly advocating the use of mobile phones in school. Our students grew up in an online world, only to go off the grid the minute they entered the school building.

Mobile technology, high-speed Internet and smart phones enabled BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and brought online research, digital presentation and collaborative working through cloud computing into the classroom. We teachers tried to get our head around social media, cyberbullying and data protection issues. Our school created social media and cyberbullying guidelines, a mobile phone policy and an acceptable use policy for ICT, organised round table discussions, presentations and workshops for students, teachers and parents on these topics.

Last week the Berlin police offered a seminar about Cybermobbing. The aula of our secondary school looked massive, compared to the very small group of parents and pedagogues that had collected to listen to the female police officer who had come to share her experiences and knowledge with our community. She sees 9-year olds with smart phones and wonders why parents allow such young children to have unsupervised Internet access, especially if they are aware of trolls, worms and phishing. Parents want to be able to communicate with their child as soon as they travel home independently, but then why not provide them with a classic little non-smart Nokia? Cost-effective and cult-status in one fell swoop.

The Primary school agreed on a strict mobile phone policy. During school times, all student phones are switched off and stored away. Teachers may and do allow the in-classroom use of phones explicitly for research or video purposes. At the Secondary school, mobile phones should not be used in the classroom, except when teachers allow this. Simply looking at your smartphone causes ‘brain drain’, let alone the distraction caused by the constant incoming notifications from various social networks.

Outside the classrooms we see many students with bent necks, texting and swiping, rather than conversing with their classmates. Are our kids and students still reading books? Are they talking to each other? Are we? Although so-called social behavior like reading Instagram posts and chatting on WhatsApp involve others, this often consists of shallow and quick ‘grazing’. Scientists claim that smart phones put our brains in constant alert mode. The constant use of smartphones releases dopamine, hooking users by using the same neural pathways as gambling and drugs.

FoMo, or fear of missing out, is very common, especially in teenagers. If everyone is constantly online and your group chat fills up with 100 comments an hour, you’ll have to swipe like crazy to stay informed. Is it worth it? Other issues are procrastination, stress, lack of concentration and disrupted sleep, which can leave you tired or even depressed.

Now this is rather subjective, but it seems to me that some students are starting to self-regulate excessive mobile phone use - while having lunch at the Mensa, or when talking with a group of friends. Should we impose a mobile phone ban in certain areas of the school? What do you think?

More info:

Annemieke Akkermans

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02.06.2020 Nelson-Mandela-Schule · Staatliche Internationale Schule Berlin | Nelson Mandela School · State International School Berlin