Proposed legislation looks to tackle phone use in schools

Children may be compelled to hand over their mobile phones to their teachers at the start of each school day if proposed legislation introduced in the Seanad is passed.

The bill, if implemented, would see repeat offenders, if they are caught with their phone in class on a number of occasions, lose their device for the whole school term.

The Education (Digital Devices in Schools) Bill, was proposed by Independent senators Gerard Craughwell, Victor Boyhan, and Billy Lawless.

It would empower the education minister to create a standardised code of behaviour on digital devices in schools, in conjunction with the National Educational Welfare Board.

It would then be sent to the board of management of schools across the country, who will consult with school staff and parents on implementation of the code of behaviour.

The legislation proposed yesterday includes powers of confiscation for schools, which can be brought to bear on students who fail to surrender their phones.

A first offence will see a student surrender their phone for the duration of the school day, but those caught a second time will lose the device for a week.

A third strike would see the child lose their phone for the duration of the school term, at which point a parent or guardian will be required to retrieve it from the school office.

The bill provides provisions to allow the possession of phones in school settings where their use has an educational purpose, sanctioned by the teacher and identified within the code of behaviour, and in cases where a parent has informed the board of management that the device is needed for the health, safety, or well-being of the child.

It also intends tackling cyberbullying, harassment, or intimidation of children and stipulates that the code of behaviour will contain an internal discipline process for any such behaviour.

Mr Craughwell said a ban on phones in Blennerville National School in Kerry has already seen improvements in the social wellbeing of its pupils.

“There will be technology companies and even some children’s rights advocates who will say that an outright ban is too blunt an instrument and a softer approach is required, but I don’t believe we can sit back and do nothing anymore and I think most parents agree,” he said.

 

The move follows similar proposals in France, where legislators are hoping to have a mobile phone ban in schools in place by the beginning of the next academic year in September.



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