Tuesday 17 September 2019

Smartphone ban at St Cronan's

Mary Fogarty

St Cronan's National School has banned smartphones at the school, with the support of 91.2 per cent of the parents.

Basic mobile phones for calls and texts are allowed, but must be switched off at all times in school.

'I think it will be extremely beneficial to the students as I believe primary school is a place for books and imagination,' said parent Ruth Donnelly. 'I hope society does a back-flip on technology and allows children to be children for as long as my generation was!'

Ruth said that the parents were concerned that smartphones are being introduced at an early age now and have become the norm. 'They are not necessary for education and play and certainly not necessary for children under 12,' she said. 'If a parent needs to talk to a pupil, they can call the school who will facilitate them.

'I believe Maeve and the parents have made a great decision and I hope this influences other primary schools to follow. Technology needs to be controlled in our children's lives, they only have one childhood.'

'I'm relieved that it has been brought in,' said Jill Breen, who's son is in fourth class. 'I think that primary school children don't need smartphones. My son doesn't have one, but it will make it easier to resist the inevitable request for one.'

School principal Maeve Tierney said that the survey was led by the school, when they wrote to parents last June and received an overwhelming response.

'Children were never allowed the use of smartphones when actually in school,' said Ms Tierney. She said that concerns arose from activity online taking place when coming to and from school.

She said that there was some cyber-bullying, or exclusion of people. 'Human nature is what it is and people will do what they do, but smartphones make it so much easier,' said Ms Tierney. 'We see the results directly and parents were hugely supportive. They themselves recognised the very real concerns.'

The children will continue to have access to laptops and other devices in the school as part of lessons and with the use of a school firewall. Ms Tierney said that the excessive screen time also eats in to a child's sleep time, exercise and ability to function and communicate.

She said that other schools have taken similar measures.

'There are so many apps on which they can contact each other. We need to protect our children from the huge range of stuff out there coming from those only interested in financial gain, or something even more sinister,' said Ms Tierney.

Fianna Fáil's Health spokesperson Stephen Donnelly has praised the school for introducing the ban. 'This is a brilliant decision,' he said. 'St Cronan's principal Maeve Tierney is leading by example when it comes to protecting our children. And I'm delighted to see that the ban is based entirely on the wishes of parents.' A survey carried out in June saw 91.2 per cent of parents vote in favour of the ban.

'I would personally like to see every primary school in the country follow suit and keep smartphones off their grounds, but I understand that this can only be done with the consent of mothers and fathers,' said deputy Donnelly. 'As parents we really need to educate ourselves about the dangers that our sons and daughters are facing online. They are put at risk not only by harmful content, but they're exposed to a world of potential cyber bullying too. The longer we can keep them out of that world the better.

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