To ban or not to ban mobile phones in the classroom?

*Mobile phones in the classroom - Steps into Spain

Written bystepsint


Understanding a schools’ mobile phone policy is a particularly important piece of information when selecting the right school in Madrid for your child. And it is always one of my key questions when visiting the school. And surprisingly, these policies tend to differ quite a lot.

In Spain, mobile phone usage in classrooms varies by region and type of school (public, concertado or private). In 2020, la Comunidad de Madrid passed a law stating mobile phones are not permitted in any public / concertado schools in Madrid. However, private schools set their own policies regarding mobile phones meaning that some schools may have strict bans, while others may allow limited or controlled use. 

Governments in some countries or some states/regions have banned mobile phones in schools in recent years. In France, the policy came into effect during the beginning of the 2018–2019 school year and impacted students over 15 years of age. In 2019, four states in Australia banned smartphones for students up to 18years. Instead, in 2015 the Mayor of New York removed a 10-year ban of phones in schools, claiming that abolition could decrease inequality (Allen, 2015). Governments pursue two important goals with this type of policy intervention: improving academic performance and reducing bullying. 

Mobile phone policy is not really a concern in primary school children but is certainly a hot topic in secondary (7th grade and upwards). In Spain, one in three 10-year-olds has a mobile phone while the rate is 78.4% for children aged 13. For children aged 15 and over, that figure is 90%, according to Spain’s National Statistics institute, the INE.

Mobile phones have become an integral part of our daily lives, and their presence in schools is a topic that continues to spark debate among educators, parents, and students. Is allowing mobile phones in schools  / classrooms a good thing, or does it lead to more harm than good? Why do some schools maintain a relaxed policy when it comes to mobile phones? 

Some arguments put forward by schools in favour of mobile phones in the classroom tend to be the following:

  • Enhanced Communication: Mobile phones enable students to stay connected with their families. In emergencies or unexpected situations, having a phone readily available can be a lifeline.

It is a fair point but could be argues that if for communication alone,  a Nokia3310 could suffuce (imagine your teen’s horror!).

  • Access to Information: Smartphones are powerful tools for accessing information and resources. They can be used for research, reference, and educational apps, enriching the learning experience.

 Indeed they are but most schools do have access to computers/i pads which work equally well.

  • Teaching Responsibility: Allowing mobile phones with certain guidelines can help teach students responsibility and self-regulation, important skills for adulthood.Certainly this is a good point but seeing as a lot of adults and teens already struggle with compulsively checking their phones, can’t  the classrooms be one area where phones are not within reach and allow students to concentrate on that given subject.

Each school MUST  have a clear mobile phone policy that outlines when and where mobile phones can be used, as well as consequences for misuse. It’s essential that both students and parents (yes, us parents!)understand and agree to these guidelines.

Below are some guidelines already implemented in schools across Madrid:

  • Designated usage areas – These are specific areas where mobile phone usage is allowed and help to minimize disruption in the classroom.
  • Educate students about responsible mobile phone usage  – Some schools organize workshops, discussions about online safety and the potential consequences of misuse. 
  • Lockers  Storage – Some schools insist that students store their phones in lockers reducing the temptation to ‘quickly check’ phones in the classroom. 
  • Monitoring Software: Some schools use monitoring software to track and limit students’ mobile phone usage. This software can block access to certain apps or websites during class hours.
  • Consequences for Misuse – Schools must enforce consequences for mobile phone misuse including warnings, temporary confiscation, or other disciplinary actions. 

Of course the onus cannot only be on the school, parental involvement is required. Parents and the schools must actively promote responsible mobile phone usage. And parents should be aware of their child’s mobile phone activities at home. 

In conclusion,  it’s important to find a balance that allows students to use mobile phones for educational purposes while minimizing distractions and potential issues. Each school may adopt a slightly different approach based on its unique circumstances and needs. Open communication between teachers, students, and parents is crucial to ensuring correct mobile phone usage in schools.

Sinéad Galvin’s extensive experience as an education consultant fuels her commitment to helping families successfully navigate the Spanish education system and discover the Best school for their child. Sinéad founded Steps into Spain, a boutique education consultancy situated in Madrid and offers a variety of school search services. Take a look to learn more about the services and what is included in each one . If you’re ready to begin or want more information, feel free to reach out to Sinéad

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