In a lifestyle change which would have seemed unbelievable a generation ago, more teenagers own a telephone than a bike.

The crucible happened six years ago: 2012 was the year teen mobile phone ownership crossed the 50 per cent mark.

Since then, the saturation of these hand held devices has only increased, nine out of 10 teenagers have their own mobile while 73 per cent have a smartphone and the majority of these kids would feel they were missing a limb if they had to come to school without it.

Despite this proliferation of phones and the warnings associated with them, education authorities across the world still haven’t worked out what’s the best thing to do with these instruments of mass distraction.

The ping of a single text message can cause everyone who was previously focused on the lesson to stop what they are doing, even involuntarily, for a moment and think about their own device.

The pupils will know the text is not for them but the noise will remind them about their phone nestling in their pocket or school bag and they will want to check it, experiencing that addictive fear of being disconnected from the group.

It will take a little while for the class teacher to get the pupils to focus again on their work.

This interruption to learning might only last for a few minutes but all of these minutes add up.

A recent study by the London School of Economics found that in schools where mobiles were banned, test scores of 16-year-olds improved by over five per cent; the equivalent of adding an extra working week to the school year, the researchers calculated.

Furthermore, this study, conducted in more than 90 UK schools, revealed that a phone ban helped both teenagers from poorer backgrounds and those who were not achieving academically.

This cohort  improved by twice as much as their more academic or wealthier peers.

Last year the French Government took a radical step when they announced a total ban on mobile phones in schools, extending from an original ban where mobiles were not allowed in the classroom to phones being also prohibited during breaks and lunchtime.

In theory the ban sounds straightforward but in implementation might be more complex as the French authorities still haven’t worked out what happens to any phones brought into schools and whether teachers will be able to search pupils’ bags or pockets for offending telecommunication devices.

Yet the lack of clarity about what to do about mobile phones was highlighted when just as the French Government were taking a decisive step in one direction, the mayor of New York City decided to lift a 10-year-long ban on phones that had been imposed in the city’s schools.

– Gordon Cairns

Read more: Schools should ban mobile phones to improve students academic results’ and mental well-being

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