Considerations for Smartphone Use in Schools
All schools are now required to consult with the school community including teachers, students and parents on the use of smart phones and tablet devices in schools.
The use of tablet devices and smart phones is now an integral part of the lives of children and young people. While this is a positive development, concerns have been identified including some risks associated with the misuse, abuse and possible overuse of these devices and the various associated technologies.
Children and young people need to be guided and supported to become good digital citizens. In a school setting, using digital technologies mediated by the teacher with the skills to exploit the potential of the technologies can be invaluable in equipping children with the skills to navigate the online world safely.
Considerations for Schools
Need for school policy
Schools are advised that they should have a whole school policy in place covering the use of tablet devices and smartphones in the classroom and during the school day. This policy should complement the use of technology in the classroom for teaching and learning and should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis. It should be developed in an open and inclusive way involving all members of the school community including teachers, students and parents so as to ensure that the policy meets the needs of the individual school and there is a shared understanding of its content.
There may also be changes required to other polices, or the development of other policies may be required, as a consequence of the outcome of the consultation. Relevant policies may include the following:
- Acceptable Usage Policy (this a document, signed by students and their parents, guardians or carers, detailing the ways in which the Internet enabled devices, mobile phones and related devices can and cannot be used in your school).
- Anti-Bullying policy, to include reference to cyberbullying
- Data Protection Policy, to include reference to the use of images and social media.
- Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), which allows pupils/students to bring their own devices, especially tablets and other suitable personal devices, into classrooms to support improving student learning outcomes. Many BYOD suitable devices may be more capable and up to date than some school computers and can support a more student-centred, active learning approach, with students taking more responsibility for their own learning.
- Wellbeing, to ensure the area of safe and ethical use of the internet is addressed in the context of the whole-school approach to wellbeing.
Schools are required to consult with teachers, student and parents on their views and suggestions on the use of tablet devices and smart phones within the school and during the school day. In this regard, schools should utilise their established local consultative arrangements. It is suggested that schools might use surveys, focus groups and questionnaires to gather information concerning concerns and insights on the use of devices and smartphones.
Issues for consultation with parents
This consultation with teachers, parents and students should include the following matters:
The appropriate use, if any, of tablet devices and smart phones in school – The issues governing the use of smart phones and tablet devices with regard to, for example, recording videos, taking photos …..
The nature and scope of restrictions that might be applied by the school e.g. age grounds – If smart phones should be allowed outside of class time i.e. during breaks, on school grounds after school – Schools should use the opportunity of the consultation process to raise awareness and promote a shared approach regarding the appropriate use of digital technologies in the school and home. Timeline
The circular should be implemented as soon as possible. It is recognised that schools may already have policies in this area, for example, Acceptable Usage Policy, policies on Bring your own Device/Technology. Where this is the position, schools are advised that these policies be reviewed at the earliest opportunity and updated following the consultation.
Schools can use Webwise’s free Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) Generator tool to assist them in creating a robust AUP that address smartphone and tablet use in school.
Best Practice for Consultation
Initiate and establish structures
- Decide on who will have responsibility for putting this policy in place.
- Establish a co-ordinating group or committee. The group should include parents, students and teachers.
Review and Research
- Reference the key information on the www.webwise.ie and www.education.ie websites which provide information, advice, and tools to support schools in being proactive in the area of internet safety and are designed to be adaptable to the needs of individual schools.
Preparation of draft policy
- Amend the document to suit the needs of the school – each school’s own context will influence the approach adopted
- Circulate the draft policy and consult with school staff, students, parents/guardians, board of management/trustees
- Amend the draft policy, as necessary, in light of the consultation process
Ratification and Communication
- Present the policy to the Board of Management for ratification
- Make provision for the circulation of the policy to all parents/guardians and arrange to provide it to all students, including new entrants
- Communicate the ratified policy to other members of the school community
- Implement the provisions of the policy over a three week period initially
Check, at regular intervals, that the policy is being implemented and identify any issues arising
Review, Evaluation and Revision
- Review and evaluate the impact of the policy
- Review it after the first three weeks of operation and at predetermined intervals thereafter, and revise as necessary, in light of the evaluation process, feedback from school community and other developments
Sample Mobile Phone and Digital Device Polices
Malahide Community School iPad Code of Behaviour: https://sites.google.com/a/malahidecs.ie/malahide-community-school/home/ipad-for-parents–wriggle-course/rules
Loreto College Foxrock – Mobile Phone and Digital Device Policy for Students
Saggart NS – Mobile Phone Policy
Mount Temple – Mobile Phone Policy
Old Bawn Community School – Mobile Policy
Willow Park Junior School – Mobile and Electronic Device Policy