New report: Do mobile phone bans in schools work?

22 Jan 2020

This report summarizes our findings regarding rules for using mobile phones during breaks in Czech schools. Our research builds on the media debate about the impact of the use of mobile technologies in schools and contributes knowledge on a subject that has not yet been empirically researched.

Advocates of banning mobile phones during breaks argue that students often do not communicate face-to-face with classmates due to the use of mobile technology, thus missing the opportunity to socialize and develop communication skills. However, results of our research did not support this assumption. Adolescents in our research sample communicate with classmates during breaks, whether or not they are allowed to use their mobile phones.

Another common argument for the ban connects mobile phone use to lack of rest during breaks and consequent inattention during lessons. This link was also not supported in our research as adolescents with and without a ban on mobile phones during breaks did not differ in their indication of problems with concentration during lessons or their lack of rest after the breaks. Furthermore, we did not find a connection between phone use rules and adolescents’ activities during breaks, such as communicating with classmates, preparing for the next lesson, reading books or magazines, playing offline games, and using a laptop or a computer.

There was a difference in how often adolescents use a mobile phone or a tablet during breaks. Unsurprisingly, if they are allowed to use them, they spend more time using these technologies. We also found small differences in the frequency of movement around the classroom/outside and in the amount of time spent passively during the break — adolescents who are allowed to use their mobile phones move a little less and spend more time passively during the break (i.e., relaxing). Yet the differences were very small. We also did not find any links between the rules for using mobile phones during breaks and overall time spent on the Internet or excessive use of the Internet.

It is worth noting that the use of mobile phones at school can also have a positive and enriching effect because phones can be used to look up information directly related to school curriculum. Our research has shown that students use mobile phones during breaks to do things related to school and search for information related to school responsibilities.

The results of our research on a sample of adolescents from the South Moravian Region show that the rules for using mobile phones during breaks are insignificantly related to adolescents’ activities during breaks. However, the limitations of the self-assessment methods used in this research should be taken into account. In particular, problems that may be related to breaks (e.g., concentration) would be appropriate to measure in a different, more objective way. This could be a focus of further research. However, based on our findings, we can say that the rules for using mobile phones are not related to the problems that are reported in the media as a result of using mobile technology during breaks.

The report was authored by Nikol Kvardová, Natália Valkovičová and David Šmahel from IRTIS.

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