Should we control children’s use of mobile phones more?

The Department for Education recently revealed new guidelines on ‘banning’ mobile phones from classrooms across England. 

The D of E points out that by the age of 12, 97% of children have their own mobile phones. These can potentially cause students to get distracted from learning. Worse, they can facilitate harassment, sexual abuse and bullying in and outside of school. 

The guidelines present four models of prohibition which range from an outright ban on school premises, to allowing pupils to carry them as long as they are never used. 

Maybe these guidelines don’t go far enough?

The guidelines are just that, guidelines, they are NOT a social policy!

There is no obligation for schools to implement any of the suggested measures.  

Most schools already have strict policies on the use of mobile phones. 

More than 80% of schools forbid their use or only allow use when specifically permitted by teachers. Less than 1% of pupils use them at will when in school. 

However, despite the rules, students still use them when they shouldn’t be. One third of secondary school students say they’ve seen phones being used secretly in lessons. 

The guidelines don’t address the deeper problem of children’s exposure to social media via their phones more generally. For younger people especially, a constant string of notifications daily can fuel a toxic cycle of addiction. Many pupils will be distracted from homework and revision due to their mobiles.

Similarly these rules don’t address the harms from exposure to the more toxic aspects of social media. This will carry on outside of school, with pupils being exposed to the likes of Andrew Tate. 

Maybe what we need is more stringent societal level rules restricting children’s use of mobile phones more generally. We could, for example, only allow the sale of restricted phones to under 16s (or under 18s) that have very limited functionality. 


This material is relevant to the education module within A-level sociology. It is also relevant to social control, an integral part of the Crime and Deviance module.

Find out more

Details of the guidelines on mobile phones can be found here.

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