School and technology: Young Brits want social media lessons and smartphone limits

Aug 30, 2019 | Mobile, Regulation, Social, Social media

School and technology: Young Brits want social media lessons and smartphone limits
Ahead of the new academic year next week, young Brits are calling for tighter rules and awareness around the use of smartphones and social media in schools, according to new research.

The study, from Nominet, comes as it is reported that leaked documents reveal a raft of new education measures are set to be announced, which include a crackdown on student behaviour through banning of mobile phones.

The study shows that six in ten 18-24 year olds (60%) think there should be a national policy on limiting access to smartphones and social media in schools.

Almost seven in ten (68%) also want lessons on how to safely use social media and messaging apps included in the national curriculum.

With children across most of the UK returning for a new academic year next week, the findings reflect how young people’s lives have been affected by technology, particularly social media – an area which over half (56%) of 18-24 year olds believe negatively affects children.

Banning, or limiting access to smartphones during the school day, and providing lessons on the pitfalls of social media could help alleviate some of the bullying, mental health and societal issues many young people are worried about.

These include:

  • Over a third (37%) of 18-24s say they have been negatively affected by social media
  • 30% say they have been bullied via social media, and 65% know people that have been victims
  • 43% say they feel under pressure to impress friends and followers online
  • Almost three quarters (74%) say social media is driving fake news, and 78% think fake news changes how people vote (up from 67% and 70% in 2017 respectively)
  • 55% think social media is creating more social and political divides in society than not
  • 58% believe technology is destroying the art of conversation

Despite their concerns over social media, young people remain positive overall about technology, with 76% of 18-24s saying it has helped in all areas of their lives.

Commenting on the research, Russell Haworth, CEO, Nominet said: “Technology evolves at such a rate that it can be hard to keep track of exactly how it’s affecting our day to day lives. But among us, young people – who have never known a time without the internet – have unique insights into how we can make it work better for everyone. We must learn from those who’ve navigated the pros and cons of growing up with technology and understand its impact, and who are now able to impart their knowledge for benefit of other young people.

“It’s clear that smartphone and social media access within the school gates is a particularly thorny subject but one worthy of discussion. Previous research has found that teachers spend the equivalent of 11 days’ teaching time per year dealing with smartphone based disruption, while other studies have shown that students in schools which ban phones earn higher test scores.

“We should listen to young people’s ideas on how to solve the technology challenges we face as a nation – after all, they are the future business owners and leaders the UK will rely on to help us build a safer and more secure digital future.”

Matt Jones, Principal, Ark Globe Academy – a leading school based in Southwark explains: “Today’s online world is presenting our students with challenges and opportunities many of us could never have dreamed of when we were in education. It’s crucial that we do more to consider how technology is affecting them and that we listen to their ideas on how we can make technology a positive experience for everyone. We already have advanced policies in place here to deal with the challenges from social media, but I welcome the UK-wide introduction of the government’s compulsory health education lessons next year. They will guide and upskill other young people and adults who work with them to be safe online and help them better navigate the internet and its challenges.”

The findings are from Nominet’s Digital Futures research, which examines the conflict between the benefits that have been enabled by technology and the implications it has for personal relationships and wider society. It seeks to encourage debate on what matters most, as we chart a course towards a vibrant digital future in the UK.

About the research

Nominet commissioned PDS (Populus Data Solutions) to survey a sample of 2,080 UK adults including 505 aged 18-24 and 1,032 UK children aged 11-17 to encourage debate on what matters most as we shape our digital future in the UK. The research was conducted online between 30th January and 6th of February 2019 and addressed several key themes including the impact of technology, digital ability and willingness, digital & society, social media and inclusivity & the workplace.

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