Does banning smartphones in schools improve children’s development?


According to our research, only one in 10 parents think phones should be used in the classroom. Additionally, the UN warns of the risks of having smartphones in schools.

Experts Dr Tamasine Preece and Rebecca Avery share their insights on the topic.

Dr Tamasine Preece

Head of Personal and Social Education
Expert Website

How do children feel about banning smartphones?

Sometimes, in conversations with young people experiencing upset or anxiety, they tell me they have asked their parents or carers to confiscate their mobile phone.

Young people themselves can identify the negative impacts technology has on their ability to concentrate on school work or work through personal challenges, many of which are centred on the social aspects of school.

How could banning phones impact children?

Smartphones offer known distractions such as gaming, updating social media and sending and receiving messages. Also, peer approval is significant amongst young people, and the ease of access to camera phones and the subsequent ability to share media can lead young people to engage in activities which they very soon regret.

Banning smartphones would take the very great pressure off children to act impulsively and participate in negative behaviours. Furthermore, it could support children in avoiding consequences in terms of reputation, school sanctions or personal relationships.

Oftentimes, it’s the smartphones which lead the them to take part in activities they usually wouldn’t.

Rebecca Avery

Education Safeguarding Adviser, Kent County Council
Expert Website

Should schools ban smartphones?

Schools should make decisions about whether to ‘ban’ smartphones based on their pupils and local demographics. For some children, access to smartphones in school without any boundaries could distract them from learning, and in some situations, place them at risk of harm, such as online bullying.

However, a complete ban is likely unrealistic to achieve and potentially difficult for schools to enforce on a practical level. A complete ban could also put children at risk of harm and may affect learning. For example, if a child is a young carer, having access to smartphones to stay in touch with their family may be the only reason they feel able to attend school.

Also, if children use smartphones at school despite a ban and something goes wrong (such being sent an unkind message from a friend), they might feel unable to report this to the school for fear of punishment.

What are some other ways to support positive use of smartphones in schools?

To use smartphones effectively, children need education and guidance both at home and at school.

Adults should role model when it is and is not okay to use them, and will need to enforce boundaries around safe, responsible and appropriate use.

Learn more about screen use with Internet Matters’ advice hub.