Mobile devices and digital awareness at Bedales

By Louise Wilson, Senior Deputy

Mobile phones can be a useful adjunct to, or even an essential part of, students’ daily life. They can also be a curse.

In assembly last week, a panel of teachers and students shared their views. A teacher celebrated their pleasure in using a journal and questioned whether mobile phones limit our ability to reflect. One colleague was unnerved by the multiplicity and falsity of our online identities, especially given that the top three apps used by students in the previous seven days were social media. A student countered that their real life persona also involved presenting different images. One student marvelled at the virtual nature of phone life which also enables them to connect and brings opportunities such as work experience. It was noted that some students (and adults?) overuse their phones and one said that they wanted to be more conscious of their own usage, whilst also finding it helpful to keep notes and reminders and to contact home easily.

Students don’t necessarily view devices as anti-social; what is the problem with a group of friends using devices in a variety of ways, whilst sharing each other’s company? There is a general feeling that navigating Block 3 and early adolescence through the issues presented by devices can be difficult; those who find social situations challenging, find a mobile a useful crutch and for those prone to distraction, a phone is an ideal tool for avoiding work.

To ban or not to ban? The overwhelming view of staff and students is not to ban, but we do have controls in place and could increase those. Mobiles have to be handed in at night in the first term of Block 3, phones may not be used in lessons without staff permission (but is the phone’s presence in a pocket a distraction?) and social media is not available on the school network during the school day – apart from Instagram, which the School Council have suggested should not be available to Block 3s in future. Of course, with 4G they could still get it across much of the school site. Should we remove it on principle or rely on students learning from each other and staff and parents about appropriate use?

Watch the video above, or on Youtube here, which is a collaboration between HMC and Digital Awareness UK and shows how technology can take over family, school and personal life – including sleep – or alternatively controlled, to give technology a positive role.

Education is key. Block 3 parents will receive a useful guide to internet safety in the post next week. The NSPCC have launched a new website and app to help parents understand the sites and apps their children are using and help keep them safe whilst using the internet. It is updated monthly and enables you to enter the name of an app or site to find out more. For example, here is the information about Instagram. Schools have been warned about the current trend called ‘Blue Whale’ which encourages participants to take challenges, the last one of which is to take one’s life.  If your child is watching the web series 13 Reasons Why on Netflix you may wish to read the reviews on the series, some of which suggest it encourages young people to consider suicide. ‘Yellow’ is a teenage version of Tinder and the NSPCC have expressed concern about its use by paedophiles.

Friends of Bedales (FOBs) gathered on Saturday to talk about mobiles with Jenni Brittain, Head of Boarding and 6.2 Housemistress. Parents want students to be fully involved with school-based decisions about mobiles, for this reason, a ban is not on the cards – and they wondered if students might explore mobile phone use creatively, by means of drama.

If your family would like to see how much time you have each spent on the different apps on your iphone in the last seven days, go to  ‘settings’ and ‘battery’ – many of us did this at school with fascinating findings and a resulting desire from some to modify our usage. The discussion continues in fine Bedalian tradition and any changes will be communicated this term.

Thank you to all those parents who have shared your views.