Concerns over principals’ phone confiscation role

The director of a body representing the country’s school principals has said that proposed legislation empowering them to confiscate mobile phones from pupils may be unenforceable and “problematic”.

The comments by Clive Byrne, director of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, coincide with a survey which found two thirds of parents believe the number one barrier to children being more physically active is the time they spend on mobile devices.

Last week, a bill banning mobile devices in schools — giving principals the power to confiscate phones and tablets for up to the duration of a school term — was introduced in the Seanad.

However, Mr Byrne told This Week on RTÉ Radio 1 that principals will “go ape” if forced to implement the measures.

“I think the bill is particularly well-intentioned, I think that it’s timely, but I do have genuine concerns about the prescriptive nature of some of the proposals in the bill which I feel will make it really difficult for schools, at second-level particularly, and principals to implement,” Mr Byrne said.

At second level we deal with students from 11, 12, up to 18 and most of them regard their mobile phone as an extension of their arm. For many the thought of it being confiscated for a day, or a week, or a month, and then being picked up by their parents...I think principals will go ape if they have to implement that type of a policy

Mr Byrne also said removing phones from schools while also trying to teach about responsible use of technology is not in the best interests of pupils, and that while a pilot project banning phones worked well in a Kerry primary school, the situation will be different if attempted at second level.

Research commissioned by Kellogg’s GAA Cúl Camps found 47% of the parents surveyed believe their child prefers being on their mobile device over being physically active. Almost a third of parents of 8- to 12-year-olds said they had felt obliged to offer rewards or threats to encourage their child to be active.

Of these, 40% promised a treat, 34% offered a family outing, and 33% threatened to ban mobile phone use in an effort to get a child to be more active.

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