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Not such smart ‘phones after all? – Headmaster’s Blog – Wednesday 13 September 2017

September 13, 2017
Ballard blog smartphones

Not such smart ‘phones after all?

We recently had an excellent INSET session with Adrian Sladdin, the education representative of the charity YGAM (Young Gamblers Education Trust). In amongst looking at the ease with which online websites, television adverts and football ground hoardings are promoting gambling, we also had a slightly wider discussion about smart ‘phones and their use for good or ill. Clearly this was no new debate – much of our modern technology (and not so modern) can be used wisely and productively whilst also having a possible negative side effect – but what did strike many of us was what some mobile ‘phone use was doing for communication within families and how one addiction (gambling) was mutually impacting on another potential addiction – the overuse of mobile ‘phones.

Just recently the Mail on Sunday has carried an article which makes reference to concerns raised by Childline in this area:

Childline has warned that children are feeling increasingly lonely and growing numbers are self-harming because their parents are “glued to their smartphones”. John Cameron, who runs the helpline, says it is receiving an average of 11 calls a day from lonely youngsters, and he claims the problem is being fuelled by the overuse of modern technology. Mr Cameron said: “Children say that when they are at home they are on a laptop or ‘phone and their parents are on laptops or ‘phones. Everyone’s in the same room together but glued to screens. That’s quite a common experience now. Even when we are at home with our families, there is a growing sense of isolation. Children are not speaking to their parents as much as in the past. It means children don’t know who to turn to when they have problems.”

The use of mobile ‘phones

Ballard School Headmaster's Blog batteries

I have blogged before about mobile ‘phone usage and shared some advice from a conversation had amongst our staff: one family of four children insists that no ‘phone goes upstairs to bedrooms and uses the ‘basket of purgatory’ at the foot of the stairs to store them nightly; another shared how that for at least one meal a week they will all sit down as a family together and leave the ‘phones well away from the table (and that includes those owned by the adults in the family!).

YGAM session for INSET

Ballard GCSE results - a 5 year high!

Our YGAM session, and the article referred to above, spent some time considering how despite the apparent ease of communication enabled by mobile ‘phones, the result is all too often loneliness and isolation which can lead some people into online addictions of various kinds. No one is suggesting we ban mobile devices from society, of course, but I do think there are some good habits out there (such as the two just shared above) which will help harness this amazing tool rather than let it dominate us. A further suggestion came from a Ballard parent who described to me what happened after her young person received his GCSE results in August.

GCSE Ballard celebration

Happy with their GCSE results from Ballard

Her son was onto his mobile ‘phone immediately on receipt of the results at school – primarily contacting family members to give them the largely good news of the results. Once they got into the car home, however, this young man put his ‘phone to one side and had a super conversation with his mother about his hopes and fears for the future now that he knew his exam results. Such a conversation had not happened before – and, yes, the importance of the GCSEs was a catalyst. However, the parent said that she felt she had also discovered something very simple but effective:

It’s easier to have a serious conversation with your teenager in a car when you are driving

It’s easier to have a serious conversation with your teenager in a car when you are driving as they can sit at the back or alongside you and, without having to make eye contact or be worried about body language, they can then engage with their parent one-to-one in an environment whilst ‘captive’ is also liberating owing to the journey and the posture of the driver.

Why not try it?

Just a thought!

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

Read our blogs from March 2016 –‘Like father, Like mother’ and ‘Hold the phone’ from 2015 both touching on the subject of mobile phone usage.

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Ballard School is an independent, private co-educational school in New Milton, Hampshire, providing an outstanding level of education for nursery to GCSE. With small class sizes and proven academic excellence, we strive to nurture the academic potential of all students. Learn more about our academic programmes, pastoral care, facilities and school ethos by visiting our website or by requesting a prospectus here


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