Smartphones and children

 

Sir, – Publicly apportioning responsibility for smartphone management to schools rather than to parents misses the point to such an extraordinary extent that it creates a real and serious hazard to the health of our teenage population.

Contrary to Senator Gerard Craughwell’s assertion, I have heard of no schools suggesting that smartphones have led to “class disruption on an unprecedented scale”. Rather, schools have already evolved systems to monitor and control phone usage so that students are now at least risk during the school day.

Where they are at risk – and it’s a very definite risk – is outside of school hours. And the risk has nothing to do with cyber-bullying, sexting or social media contact with inappropriate strangers. These are undoubtedly genuine concerns, but a far, far more fundamental and significant danger for Ireland’s teenagers is simply that they are being allowed to spend too much time on their phones. Games such as Fortnite are cripplingly addictive, as is the lure of chatting inanely on social media sites late into the night, and teenagers aren’t physically or emotionally equipped to resist.

My own research suggests that over 60 per cent of secondary students are spending an average of more than three hours per day on their phones at home. Three hours a day. Three hours a day that are impinging on their sleep and sleep patterns every bit as much as their friendships, family life and the development of normal, positive adolescent behaviours.

This is the real problem and not only is banning smartphones in schools not going to solve anything, worse than that, it’s going to send a message to parents that the buck needn’t stop with them, that everything is being sorted by the school.

The crisis we face is not with smartphones in schools. It’s with smartphones in general. And let’s be very clear that for our teenage population it is a crisis. If the Senators who proposed this Bill really want to do something to help, urgent initiatives to research and tackle the extent and nature of teenage phone use in the home would be far more effective than the sticking-plaster solution that they have suggested. – Yours, etc,

ALAN COX,

Principal,

Temple Carrig School,

Greystones, Co Wicklow.