Almost half of parents want their children’s school to ban mobile phones due to fears over safety and the distraction caused by gadgets, new research found.
A survey by price comparison service uSwitch.com of UK parents found 49% want phones banned in the classroom.
Just under nine in 10 parents (88%) voiced concern about their children going to school with so much expensive tech, with the research claiming the average child now carries £301 of gadgets with them.
More than a quarter of parents questioned (27%) also said they had considered downgrading their child’s smartphone to a so-called “dumb-phone”, which can only be used for calls and texts, to help remove potential distractions.
Ernest Doku, mobiles expert at uSwitch.com, said: “It’s a mark of our always-connected times that half of pupils now have their own smartphone, and the number of gadgets that schoolchildren are carrying into class every day is mind-boggling.
“It is understandable that parents are concerned about the potential distractions facing their children, but banning phones from schools is not as straightforward as it sounds, especially since technology is an integral part of modern life.”
Concerns have been raised about the impact on young people’s mental health and general wellbeing of excessive screen time, with MPs and campaigners pushing for greater regulation of technology firms to help boost user safety.
However, Mr Doku argued schools can offer a safe environment in which children can learn and interact with technology, before using it more widely in later life.
“Children are very likely to be using a whole range of gadgets when they enter the world of work, and school is one place where they should be able to learn about technology in a safe environment,” he said.
“In addition, many parents want the peace of mind of being able to contact their children in emergencies, and find out where they are if they don’t appear at home at the usual time, whether by calling them or by using an app like Apple’s Find My Phone.
“Striking the right balance is an impossible task for parents and teachers, but with the arrival of 5G, the world is going to become increasingly connected, and schoolchildren need to be able to deal with the tech-filled environment they’re growing up in.”
According to the research, parents are set to spend £1.4 billion on electronic devices for the new school term, up from £1.2 billion in 2016, with smartphones, tablets and laptops the most common items being bought.