At The Olive Tree, teachers had watched how secondary pupils would increasingly spend their breaktimes and lunch hours on their mobiles, in that disconcerting way that many young adults have of sitting together while being apart.
 
Staff began to be concerned by the decline in reading for pleasure, and by the decrease in face-to-face communication between young people.
All this was borne out by an increasingly abrupt and unskilled way of communicating verbally, as well as, in many cases, an impoverished written style.
 
We looked at the research in order to inform our discussion. 
 
One study by the London School of Economics traced the impact of school mobile bans on pupils’ exam results.  It found that students in schools with phone bans gained higher test and examination scores. It also found that low-performing students benefited the most from a mobile ban.

Another study published in the Journal of Communication Education found that students without mobile phones performed better in various areas: they wrote down 62 percent more information when they took notes, they were able to recall more detailed information after their lessons, and they scored significantly more highly in end-of-term tests.

Research published by the University of Chicago found that, even if mobiles are turned off, turned face-down or put away, their mere presence reduces a person’s cognitive capacity.

To pupils’ dismay, we took the plunge and banned mobiles in the secondary school this September. 

A term later, the vast majority of pupils no longer even bring their mobile to school. Pupils no longer rush out at the end of lessons to check their messages and see the latest trending news. Instead, they spend their lunch hours in groups chatting over enormous jigsaws, playing sport or strolling in the gardens. Clearly, face-to-face communication skills are being developed at these times. Staff also report more focus and considered observation in lessons.

Our generation has given young adults the astonishing tool of instant communication. We now need to guide them so that they can use it to their advantage, while continuing to develop fully as communicators and thinkers, not simply as unquestioning consumers of the latest Whatsapp message or Google trend.

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