United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in its recent report has issued a warning over the excessive use of smartphones in schools worldwide. The UN report raised concerns about over-use of mobile phones as they are bad for students’ mental health, educational performance and holds privacy concerns for data leaks for other non-educational purposes.
UNESCO's recommendation to prohibit phones in classrooms is based on the 2023 Global Education Monitoring Report published on July 26, which analyzed the “negative link” between the uncontrolled use of mobile phones and student performance. According to the report, intensive usage of technology may impact on student performance and increase disruption. A meta-analysis of studies conducted in 14 different countries states that mobile phones have a negative effect on academic performance.
UNESCO reported inequalities in digital learning
Although technology can potentially open up learning opportunities for millions of people but excessive or inappropriate use of technology can be distracting, disruptive, and result in detrimental effects on learning. The UNESCO report also highlights the inequalities created by digital learning. It also urged countries to set their own standards for how technology is designed and used in education such that it never replaces in-person, teacher-led instruction and serves the shared objective of quality education for all.
“We need to teach children to live both with and without technology; to take what they need from the abundance of information, but to ignore what is not necessary; to let technology support, but never supplant human interactions in teaching and learning,” said Manos Antoninis, the Director responsible for producing the report.
Trauma children face due to frequent use of mobiles
Supporting the UNESCO recommendation to keep smartphones out of students’ hands and schools, Ms Aishwarya Rao, Director, of The Vivekalaya Group of Institutions, says, “The concerns that are being raised with regard to the corruption of innocence in our children due to unfiltered exposure to adult content through smartphones is a warranted one. A lot of emotional and mental difficulties that children are experiencing today are due to the falsified realities they are witnessing through social-media content.”
“This in turn is affecting their sense of self worth and identity, it can be understood as a direct result of the smartphone culture. I believe that there is no true requirement for children younger than 16 / 18 to have access to these instruments or the social-media spectrum, while travel safety might be a concern for parents, the same can be attended through a basic mobile phone,” she added.
Mobile phones bring more negative effect
Elaborating on the disadvantages of smartphones on students' mental health, Shefali Sharma, Senior Career Counsellor, said: "In today's era, gadgets have become an indispensable part of life, and especially smartphones are undeniable today. I personally believe that mobile phones bring more negative effects than positive on students. Smartphones should be banned in schools because it will bring more worthless effect to students' development, morality, and focus on study."
On asking how students could attain vast knowledge now, Shefali said: "There are other ways by which students can gain knowledge in the school itself. In today's time, all schools have libraries, research labs, where students can not only get theoretical but also practical knowledge under subject experts. And if we go through the disadvantages, which are many, like misuse of technology, distraction, health issues if screen time is more, then banning smartphones seems more appropriate."
Cognitive development requires students to focus
Quoting the technology as a great enabler of learning, if used wisely and discreetly, Vinod Malhotra, Advisor, Seth Anandram Jaipuria Group of Educational Institutions, said: "The recommendation to ban smartphones in classrooms does have some pros as students often get distracted by constant notifications and social-media indulgence on their phones in the middle of their classes. Cognitive development requires students to focus."
"Phones are found to be a great distraction for young people in this process. It’s important to use technology as a learning tool rather than becoming subservient to it. The PISA reports and insights on the negative impact of technology beyond a certain level of usage by young adults in secondary schools and colleges are also worth paying attention to," Vinod further said.