Articles in category "Digital Citizenship"

How should we deal with mobile phones in school?

We could completely ban them - like French schools are doing from September. There is an interesting article here about how that should work (in theory).

"The use of a mobile telephone by a pupil is forbidden in elementary schools (écoles maternelles), primary schools and secondary schools (colleges) with the exception of certain places or certain conditions that are authorized by internal rules.”

This sounds quite reasonable and not too far from the requirement we have during lessons as phones should be on silent (or completely off) and in bags or lockers - unless under the explicit instruction of a member of staff that phone use is acceptable for a certain task or exercise. The school cafeteria is a no-device zone from 12h30 to 14h00.

No Device ZoneSome parents would welcome a complete ban on mobile phones in school. Some parents would be against such a ban as phones are a valuable link between parents and students in this busy world of after-school clubs and public transport use.

Smart phones can be incredible learning tools. The ability for a student to take a photo of an experiment or some notes on the board is powerful. Apps that turn smart phones into sensors taking advantages of the gyroscope and accelerometer in them puts scientific instruments in the hands of all (or at least most) and then these scientific instruments can be taken home! The ability to easily make videos and record audio clips can be built into engaging learning experiences. The use of smart phones as an integral part of classroom virtual reality and augmented reality experiences is truly amazing. Why just look at an image of a desert in a textbook when quickly and easily you can be having a brief VR experience capitalising on Google Cardboard technologies - standing in the desert describing why it is a difficult place to live.

Away for the day’ is an interesting approach from the makers of the film Screenagers - of which we have held several screenings in school and represents another approach to the situation.

We as a school do not require students to have smart phones. We have a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ approach but the specification that the device has to have at least a 13 inch screen rules out most phones. The use of smart phones are an integral part of most people’s lives. The research suggests that the always on nature, the access to stimulating materials and a FOMO (fear of missing out) impacts upon the mental health of some young (and older…) people.

The situation is complex and requires a working and open partnership between teachers, parents and students. What do you think about the situation?

‘5 pieces of advice’ for parenting young people and their digital devices

5 pieces of advice

At the request of the Campus des Nations Parent-Teacher Association at a recent meeting, I am sharing ‘5 pieces of advice’ for parenting young people and their digital devices. I have tried to keep the advice general as the names of apps/games/devices change so regularly. Engagement, openness, discussion and understanding are the key to having a positive relationship with young people and their digital devices.

All of this advice changes with the age of the young people involved!

Own the device

“If you paid for it, pay the bill/subscription for it, or it is kept in your house - it is yours and therefore can say when, where and how it is used.”

As a parent you get to say when and where a digital device can be used and for how long. I believe that an hour before bed with no digital device is a good idea and can promote healthy sleep. A laptop purchased to meet the requirements of the school’s BYOB programme - should be just that - a device used to support learning and not something loaded with games and videos.

Use of 'space'

“Digital devices used away from communal areas - such as a child keeping their device in their bedroom overnight - will cause issues.”

Digital devices should be keep away from bedrooms during the night, maybe the whole families devices could be charged in one central location. I believe that, where possible, digital device use should be in the communal areas of the home and not in bedrooms with closed doors.

Most modern routers (the box that provides your home with WiFi) have settings to allow you to limit and stop access to the internet for named devices at certain times of the day. It should be possible to have it set up so that a child can not access the internet after a certain time.

Engage with digital technologies

“Engage with digital technologies so you can understand why your children want to use them so much. Reflect on why you use your digital devices so much, reflect on what you did as a young person, how you shared photos, played video games etc.”

Digital devices are important to young people. They may understand them and feel more comfortable with them than you! Build a better understanding by engaging with the technology. Get your child to ‘teach’ you the game they are playing or share the funniest video they saw that day. Show your child how to use the calendar on the device to organise their time. Model for your child the correct use of email and messaging services.

Have regular conservations about digital technologies and all the issues they create. The weekly post on Digital Technologies at Nations Facebook page will provide ideas for suggestions to have and questions to be asking.

Good screen time and bad screen time

“Which would you rather see your child do? Spend an hour passively watching television/videos or spend an hour developing their understanding and knowledge of strategies involved in a complex game? There is such a thing as good and bad screen time!”

My son was spending too much time on his device watching YouTube videos. The device has been provided for messaging/communication, playing (worthwhile) games and creating digital content. So after a conversation with him, YouTube has been removed/blocked. I then spent some time showing my son Hearthstone - a digital card game with spells, warriors, wizards and the like. I would prefer him to spend his digital time playing a game of strategy - rather than just watching digital videos.

Have the password, open it, look at it, understand it

“Trust is always important but you should know the passwords to your child’s devices and accounts and be willing to spend some time looking at what they are doing.”

Either in the presence of your child or not - you should regularly spend some time looking through their devices and the accounts they use. Are they accessing websites that are appropriate? What sort of videos are they watching? What is the language like in the messaging groups they are in? Have they installed applications that you do not understand the reason for? What have they been downloading?

How old is old enough for a smartphone?


I have a child of ‘not quite old enough for a smartphone yet’ age. The time is ticking away towards decisions needing to be made and agreements worked through. I recently came across this positive article upon the topic that I thought I would share:

Common Sense Media - Why Getting My 11-Year-Old a Phone Was One of the Best Parenting Decisions I've Ever Made [7th May 2018]

I found the article and a lot of the resources it links to really useful when thinking about this parenting step.

Thoughts for parents and educators

  • How can a smartphone and what it connects to be used as a link between parents/educators and children/students?
  • How can we model to our children appropriate use of smartphones?
  • How do you frame conversations about checking through a child’s digital messages and browsing history?

Should under 16s be using WhatsApp?

WhatsApp Terms of Service

You may have seen this ‘Updated Terms Of Service And Privacy Policy’ pop up recently when you have been using WhatsApp. All WhatsApp users in ‘the European Region’ will be seeing it and the key thing to note is the change in minimum age. WhatsApp has changed the rules - if you live in the European Region you need to be 16 to legally use WhatsApp. For the rest of the World users should at least be 13 years old unless countries require a greater age.

If you live in a country in the European Region, you must be at least 16 years old to use our Services or such greater age required in your country to register for or use our Services. If you live in any other country except those in the European Region, you must be at least 13 years old to use our Services or such greater age required in your country to register for or use our Services. Source

Thoughts for parents and educators

How are you approaching this change with your children? Have you just ignored it? After all WhatsApp is a useful messaging app that many family use to stay in contact with each other... Does ignoring this regulation send a negative message to your child? Why might you enforce age restrictions when it comes to films or computer games but not in this occasion? Is that a mixed message?

More on the issue can be found here

BBC News - WhatsApp to raise minimum age limit to 16 in EU [25 April 2018]
Childnet International - Age Restrictions on Social Media Services [25 April 2018]