1)On 10 October 2018, a group of 26 students from years 9 and 11 took part in a facilitated discussion, in Parliament, about social media and phone use in schools. The students from Welland Park Academy were split into four groups and were asked the following three questions:
i)What is the social media policy in your school and classes?
ii)What are your thoughts on the use of social media and screens in classrooms and schools?
iii)What measures can be used to manage mobile phone use in schools?
As an icebreaker, the students were also asked which platforms they used and why. The notes below provide a summary of the students’ discussions.
2)Icebreaker: The majority of students said that the social media platforms they used were Snapchat, Whatsapp and Instagram. Other platforms mentioned included Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Discord and YouTube, with the latter used to watch videos, rather than to post, or comment on, content. Students emphasised that social media enabled them to keep in touch with friends and was a fun way of staying connected. They also indicated that their privacy settings were activated so only friends could contact them. Some students followed accounts in the business and fashion worlds, and used social media for news, but did not post content.
3)Question 1: The Students were very aware of their school’s social media policy and noted that at the start of every academic year, they and their parents signed a form agreeing to adhere to the policy. Mobile phones are allowed on the school’s premises but are not to be switched on while in school unless authorised by a teacher to do so, as part of a lesson. The sanctions for being caught using a phone increase over time: on the third occasion of being caught, the phone is collected by a parent and both the parent and student then sign an agreement to hand the phone in to ‘Pastoral’, on a daily basis, and collect it at the end of the day, for two weeks.
4)Question 2: In general, students though the policy was fair; they understood why it was in place and stressed that school was a time for learning. It was also noted that boundaries needed to be in place for phone-use and that school was a good place to set them. Some explained that the policy meant they got an enforced ‘break’ from social media and provided one less distraction in the classroom. Others questioned why phones could not be used at breaktimes and noted that policies at neighbouring schools were different.
5)Question 3: There were some complaints that the policy was not consistently enforced and that, in practice, it can be possible to sneak a look at phones in lessons. Carrying through with punishments if someone was caught using their phone was identified as an important deterrent and way to manage phone use. Holding assemblies and workshops to educate students on the dangers and pitfalls of social media use were highlighted. They suggested that some of these sessions got a bit monotonous and tell them things they already know. They also suggested some of the informative videos might need updating as they deal with older forms of social media use.
Published: 31 January 2019