My seven-year-old son has been known to ask when he can have a mobile phone… after all he is “the only one in my class without one!”, which, of course, makes me the worst mother ever (I think you’re not, son). I really fail to see the need for a child to have a phone – he is always with a grown up, or at worst, when he is playing out, within shouting distance of one. There is just no need in my opinion for a child of that age to ever need a phone.
But what about teenagers? Every teenager has a phone now, for texting or IMing, Facebook, Twitter and whotnot, and maybe for teenagers phones are useful (although probably not strictly speaking necessary). If they are out with their friends, and need to call home to let Mum and Dad know they might be ten minutes late, it saves them having to find 10p for a phone box, or heaven forbid having to communicate with their friend’s mum to ask to use their landline. But phones have now taken on a social role, with apps being used to keep in touch with people who may easily become friends of the past, and perhaps this, too, is a good use (although it can’t beat a good old fashioned pen and paper, in my humble opinion).
What winds me up about mobile phones, though, is that people are constantly using them. Last time Lee and I went on a date, I pre-warned him that if he checked his email while we were out, I was going straight home. To me, the people you are physically with take precedence, and to be constantly Tweeting or updating statuses implies that you’d rather be somewhere else… basically it’s just downright rude and disrespectful.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of the education watchdog, has suggested that phones be banned at schools in order to improve pupils’ behaviour and tackle discipline – and I think it’s a brilliant idea. There is no place for phones in school. In lessons, children (and I include teens in that, although they will undoubtedly disagree) should be paying attention and studying, not checking into 4square, or texting friends. But what if there’s an emergency? I hear you cry… what if little Tommy needs me? Dur… well schools have an office. And a secretary. And (get this) she has your phone number! If there is an emergency, the school can contact you. And likewise, if you have vitally urgent message for your darling child, you can phone the school too! Who’d have thunk it?!
And even if phones aren’t used during lessons (although it seems from reports that they are a massive source of distraction by some) why do they need them at lunchtime/breaktime/on the walk to and from school? I heard on the radio today that someone’s child texts when he leaves school and again when he gets home. Why? He leaves at school finishing time surely? And gets home a bit later, I should think. I am the first to admit I am a bit of a protective mum, but this is ridiculous. Whatever happened to no news is good news? And breaktimes are for socialising with the people who are there – catching up on what your friends did the night before, or playing football. I really do just fail to see the need for phones in a school environment at all. In fact, I think they are overused in general, and are responsible, in part, for the breakdown of face to face communication in our society. People don’t talk any more. And I am guilty of this myself. I have tonnes of friends on Twitter, some who I am real friends with, and some I know only through t’interwibble. But when did I last sit down and have a real, actual chat with any proper friends? Too long ago. I really must change that.