Wednesday 18 September 2019

Explainer: What parents need to know about new advice on smartphone use in schools

Minister for Education Richard Bruton issued a circular today
Minister for Education Richard Bruton issued a circular today
Rachel Farrell

Rachel Farrell

Parents and teachers across the country are being asked to reconsider the use of tablets and smart phones in schools.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton issued a circular today requiring all schools to consult with parents, teachers and students on the use of electronic devices in schools.

Minister Bruton acknowledged that while many schools already have appropriate policies in place, schools should consider updating these policies to fit the current generation. 

What parents can expect?

Parents across Ireland can expect to hear from their children's school about restrictions on mobile phone and social media usage while they are on school premises.

What did the circular say?

The circular advised schools to ask parents whether children should be allowed to use their smartphones outside class time. This includes on their lunch break or on school premises after classes finish.

Schools may also ask parents about the possibility of age restrictions for this usage on school grounds. 

Why is it being issued now?

The Department of Education hopes that the circular will raise awareness for the appropriate use of phones and digital technology at home as well as in school. 

Are any other resources available to parents and teachers?

Webwise, which is funded by the Department of Education and Skills, is a website that teachers are encouraged to use to promote safer internet use among their students.

What has the Minister had to say on the subject?

Minister Bruton said that he recognised that the use of smart phones and tablet devices by young people in Ireland "is an area that has raised concerns". 

"New technologies are fundamentally transforming the world we live in. While these changes offer fantastic opportunities for our young people they are also associated with potential risks, which we as a Government are responding to. 

“As part of the Action Plan for Education, our plan for making Ireland’s education and training service the best in Europe by 2026, we are bringing in a new law which will require every school to consult with parents and students on key issues and publish and operate a Parent and Student Charter in line with national statutory guidelines.

“New technologies can open up a world of opportunity for our young people but we must harness their potential and ensure that parents, students and schools have a shared understanding of their use our education system.” 

Is there anything else parents need to know?

Schools will also consult with parents about other issues under the Education (Parent and Student Charter) Bill 2016, such as school financial statements involving voluntary contributions and the number of complaints made to the school. 

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