By Gordon Deegan
More than 80% of parents at a Co Clare primary school have signed up to a policy that none of their children will have sole ownership of a mobile phone while pupils there.
The move comes after the school encountered cyberbullying and the sending of inappropriate pictures.
In an email to parents of Clarecastle NS, principal Martin Moloney explained the rationale behind the ‘Clarecastle NS Internet and Technology Agreement’, which covers a whole range of technology-related issues affecting students.
“In recent years, the effects of technology use among pupils in Clarecastle NS has become very apparent,” he wrote in the email. “Issues such as cyberbullying, sending inappropriate pictures, exposure to age-inappropriate content, have all come to light in our school.
“We also want to help alleviate the pressure that parents come under and offer resources and assistance with regard to their children’s technology uses.”
Social media safety expert and forensic psychologist Maureen Griffin has advised the school on the formulation of the policy over the past year.
Along with parents agreeing that their children will not have sole ownership of a mobile phone while students at Clarecastle NS, the agreement also includes “age-appropriate technology use for a reasonable time period per week” at the pupils’ homes.
In his email to parents, Mr Moloney said: “The desired result is for pupils to be able to embrace technology in a safe and age-appropriate environment while leaving plenty of time for physical activity, play and sleep etc.”
Following strong encouragement from the principal, there has been an 82% take-up by parents in signing the agreement.
The principal told parents in a separate email: “If we standardise our approach to internet and technology use as a school community, this will help alleviate some of the pressures experienced by parents and pupils.
“We, as the significant adults in our pupils’ lives, have a responsibility to protect them, in so far as is possible, from exposure to harm.”
He said that signing up to the agreement would have huge long-term benefits for the children, their families, and the school community.
At a public information meeting in Ennis organised by the Clare Joint Policing Committee, Dr Griffin fully endorsed the school’s ‘no phone’ approach.
“No child at primary school age should have sole ownership of a mobile phone,” she said.
“My issue is with two-year-olds saying ‘it’s my pad, it’s my pad, that’s my phone, and that’s my Xbox’.