Mobile phone guidance
We know that many parents have recently, or are considering, giving their sons their first mobile phone before they start at Warwick School. We understand that this is a difficult decision, and it is one that needs to be done with careful consideration. We hope that this page will give you information that will help to you support your son’s use of mobile phones:
What is Warwick School’s policy regarding use of
mobile phones in school?
We allow boys to bring mobile phones to school and to keep them on their person during the day. However, they must be switched off and put away at all times, unless their use is directly supervised by a member of staff and for a specific purpose. Boys are not allowed to use mobile phones in break and lunchtimes, unless they have asked for permission from a teacher (e.g. to send a message about a sport practice being cancelled). We reserve the right to access boys’ phones at any time if we suspect that they are being used inappropriately.
Is a mobile phone essential at Warwick School?
No. In general, mobiles are used only occasionally in class. Teachers may set extension tasks in lessons that use mobile phones on occasion.
What benefits does having a mobile phone bring?
The fact that your son can contact you if there is a change of plan is obviously a benefit of giving your son a mobile phone to take to school. Mobiles can be useful when returning from school trips or matches, particularly if the bus is delayed on its return. Homework is set online and your son can check this and do research on his phone for some tasks.
School sports teams are posted on the school website, so your son is able to check when he is expected to take part in a match. Outside of school, some boys connect by messaging each other regularly, play games on the internet and organise to meet using their phones.
What problems can having a mobile phone create?
Mobile phones can also be a big distraction. Despite our advice to the contrary, many choose not to turn them off and they can be distracted during classes or tempted to find a way to play games during free time instead of socialising with their friends. Anxiety provoked by images of attractive celebrities, or the fear of missing out engendered by seeing your friends having fun and realising you haven’t been invited can be an issue.
Bullying in apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat can occur. Boys lose their phones occasionally and, very rarely, have them stolen. One of the biggest issues with phone use is their ability to disrupt sleep, (blue light suppresses your body's ability to create the hormone melatonin needed to fall asleep, messages pinging until midnight keep you awake, etc). We advise parents to make sure that phones and other devices are switched off at night and preferably left outside the bedroom. Devices should be switched off at least 30 minutes before bedtime to allow time to wind down and prepare for sleep.
How much time can your son spend on his phone? When and where is use of the phone allowed and not allowed? What is going to happen to the phone overnight?
We recommend that you set guidelines on how much screen-time you allow your son to have. There is no hard and fast rule here (perhaps an hour maximum a day?). If you see that your child is getting socially withdrawn – spending time online when they used to see friends or showing anxiety at the prospect of no screens – then you should take action to reduce the amount of time he is on his phone/ tablet/ computer. To be able to effectively monitor this, it is really important that you try to keep screen use in a public place as far as possible. It may be that you have a rule that phones can only be used downstairs, and you set up a special charging point in the kitchen where phones have to be put each night half an hour before bedtime. We certainly would recommend that you don’t allow your son to use a phone during mealtimes and that he isn’t allowed to take his phone to bed with him at night.
How can I help him to use his phone effectively, so it enables him to live life better?
In order to help your son to use his phone in a way that is most beneficial, the first thing that we’d recommend you do is to talk openly about the positive ways that your phone helps you; explore apps, websites, settings together that you think are funny or engaging; and model behaviour with your phone that you want your son to copy. Mobile phones can help shy boys to connect, aid research and school work, give a sense of achievement, allow your sons to decompress and express themselves, and let you check that they are safe.
How can I help my son to make the most of his phone and help to reduce the problems that he may experience from it?
Talk about responsible use and set clear answers to the following questions…
Who is the phone’s owner?
Our advice is that the phone’s owner should be you, not your son. As owner, you are legally responsible for the way that the phone is used. As such, you should have control over how your son uses it, what he accesses and so on, changing the settings on the phone to enable you only to download new apps, restricting internet content using parental controls, etc.
Are there certain things he can or can’t use the phone for? Who will know the passwords?
In terms of what your son can and can’t use his phone for, a first step would be to consider what your son can legally access. Access to explicit, violent or pornographic content is clearly illegal, and you can prevent him accessing (inadvertently or deliberately) sites which have these by setting parental controls appropriately on his phone. Similarly, many apps and websites are illegal for 11 year-olds to access. Whilst there is no age restriction for watching videos on YouTube, users need to be 13 or older to have their own YouTube account. Most social media services require users to be at least 13 years of age to access and use their services. This includes Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Musical.ly and Skype. WhatsApp requires users to be 16. We know that some parents ignore these restrictions and allow their sons to use these sites. If you do so, we recommend that you consider cloning your son’s account, so you can monitor all the content in conversations he is involved in.
We suggest that you regularly monitor your son’s usage and that you encourage him to talk to you if he encounters things that he finds disturbing (for example, aggressive comments from other gamers, inappropriate comments below YouTube videos, sexualised advertising). By talking things through together you can address these issues and prevent anxiety and worry. Feel free to contact your son’s form tutor if you would like them to help with this.