Children and Smartphone Usage

A large body of research has linked the amount of ‘screen time’ such as watching television, playing computer games, and using smartphone apps with negative outcomes for children of all ages. In a school context, using smartphones can be extremely distracting for both pupils and their teachers.

The Department for Education has published new guidance which backs head teachers in banning mobile phone use throughout the school day, including at break times, to tackle disruptive behaviour and online bullying while boosting attention during lessons. This is supporting the wider work the Government is doing to raise standards in schools by increasing students’ focus and reducing distractions.  

The new guidance says that schools should prohibit the use of mobile phones, but they will have autonomy on how to do this. Schools will be supported to prohibit mobile phone use with examples of different approaches including banning phones from the school premises, handing in phones on arrival at school, and keeping phones securely locked away at school.  

The move brings England in line with other countries that have already implemented a ban, including France, Italy and Portugal. It follows warnings from the United Nations on the risks of smartphones in schools and government data that found around a third of secondary school pupils reported mobile phones being used when they were not supposed to in most, or all, lessons.   

This ban supports the hard work of teachers and education staff – and continues to build on the Government’s reforms backed up by the highest level of funding for schools in history, in real terms, of nearly £60 billion by 2024-25.   

The ban also builds on a £10 million investment in behaviour hubs which support up to 700 schools to improve behaviour alongside the appointment of a new behavioural taskforce led by Department for Education’s behaviour tsar Tom Bennett.