Best Practices for Schools to Manage Student Device Usage

The internet has revolutionised how students go about learning to the point that EdTech – the act of using laptops and tablets in the classroom – is virtually omnipresent in schools across the Western world.

However, while the internet is seen as the information highway, the ways to access it, in particular via personal mobile devices, is a thorny issue for most schools.

A large proportion of secondary schools provide their students with laptops and tablets so they can better control how they access the internet through them.

However, what is problematic is that most students have their own personal mobile phones. Therefore, in theory, at least, they can access it how they want to – and herein lies a problem, because not all students will do this responsibly.

So, how, then, can you minimise the potential risk of bullying and classroom disruption that could result from their online activity during school hours?

Here are some ideas of best practices schools can adopt to manage their student’s personal daytime device usage.

What’s the problem?

Before we outline the best practices, it is worth highlighting why allowing students to use their mobile phones during school time could be an issue.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of tempting distractions on a mobile phone. According to a poll by Gallup, teens spend 4.8 hours on social media every day, which is more than their homework.

When they are not on social media, they are often playing videos, games and online chat. So, it follows that if they are allowed to have their phones with them in class, there would be a good chance they would continue these activities during lesson time.

Then, of course, there are greater threats like violent, hateful, and adult content, as well as videos being taken of children being bullied.

While most educational institutions realise they can’t do anything about student device usage outside of school time, they can certainly monitor and control it in school time.

Managing Student Device Usage

So, how do you go about monitoring student device usage?

Here are some best practices your school should consider adopting.

  1. Have a clearly defined policy

The first thing any school should do is have a clearly defined policy for the use of personal and classroom-provided devices during school time.

This policy should be comprehensive and demonstrate in no uncertain terms when these devices can be used and in what capacity.

These guidelines should include the websites, apps and overall content they are allowed to view and should be communicated clearly to all students.

Schools can also reinforce these policies through signage dotted around their premises.

When defining your policy, it is worth consulting with legal experts. Depending on state legislation, it might have to be a bit different for a state school as opposed to a private school.

  1. et parental buy-in

With the policy defined, it is important to get parental buy-in about it.

Doing this will probably require the school to send communications to them clearly outlining their policies.

However, you may need to run an information session in school to educate parents as to the potential issues, risks and dangers of mobile phone usage during the school day.

  1. Outline the consequences

Having policies is one thing, but it is a good idea to outline the punitive consequences of not adhering to those policies.

For this reason, you should make both children and parents aware of what will happen if your child is caught using their personal device during school time.

Most importantly, you need to follow through on these consequences. Otherwise, students will have no incentive to follow your policies.

Subsequently, don’t be afraid to hand out suspensions to students who persistently cause significant disruptions or incidents as a result of personal mobile phone usage on the school grounds.

  1. Use Phone Lockers

You will want to treat your students like adults and trust them to manage their own mobile phone usage in accordance with your policies.

However, for those who are not following the rules, you should consider confiscating their device and putting it in phone lockers.

This can be a good deterrent for them in the future.

  1. Block Websites on School Devices

It is not just personal devices you have to concern yourself with. School-issued laptops and tablets come with risks too. So, for this reason, you might consider blocking access to certain websites.

You can do this by setting your Wi-Fi to instruct your DNS server not to translate the addresses of these sites to your IP.

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