Unesco calls for global ban on smartphones in schools

Unesco looked at 200 education systems around the world. Credit: gpointstudio/FreePik

A United Nations report has called for smartphones to be banned from classrooms across the world.

Unesco, the UN's education, science and culture agency, said prohibiting the use of phones at school would improve learning and protect children from online bullying.

The report said there was evidence that excessive mobile phone use was linked to poorer educational performance for children.

It also detailed that high levels of screen time had a negative effect on children’s emotional stability.

The call to ban smartphones, it said, is to send a message that digital technology - including the use of artificial intelligence - should always come after "human-centered vision" of education.

It emphasised the need of face-to-face interaction for teachers as well as students, especially at a time where more learning is moving online.

Unesco’s director general, Audrey Azoulay, said: "The digital revolution holds immeasurable potential but, just as warnings have been voiced for how it should be regulated in society, similar attention must be paid to the way it is used in education.

Audrey Azoulay, Director general of the Unesco. Credit: PA

"Its use must be for enhanced learning experiences and for the wellbeing of students and teachers, not to their detriment.

"Keep the needs of the learner first and support teachers. Online connections are no substitute for human interaction."

Unesco looked at 200 education systems around the world and estimated one in six countries had banned smartphones in school.

The most recent country to take action is the Netherlands, where it was announced that phones, tablets and smartwatches would be banned in classrooms from January 2024.

The Dutch government said the move was to stop pupils being distracted from their school work.

In Ireland, the town of Greystone clubbed together to ban primary school children from having smart phones, as parents struggled with the peer pressure their sons and daughter's faced to get a device with social media and internet access.

St Patrick's Primary School headteacher Rachel Harper who was behind the smartphone pact Credit: It Takes A Village

Head teacher Rachel Harper, who led the campaign said: "You wouldn’t let your child open the door to a stranger, but giving them a smart phone is similar - at the click of a button they can reach adult material that’s far beyond their years and once they see it you can’t take it back," she told ITV News.

"Nobody wants their child to be the odd one out, or be different, but now that’s not case.

"What’s really come across is the parents' relief," she added. "They were silently concerned about stepping out and thinking they were being too over protective or extreme, but that’s taken away from the parents with the school leading it."

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