CRANLEIGH SCHOOL SURREY: A leading independent boarding school has become the first in the UK to prohibit the use of mobile phones for pupils in its first two year groups (Years 9 and 10). Cranleigh, a co-educational school in Surrey, educates pupils from age 13 to 18. Staff claims that the move has proved popular with parents and pupils alike.
Deputy Head (Pastoral) Dr Andrea Saxel says: “We were already on the stricter end of smart phone use but this academic year we have decided to limit use in those two-year groups completely. Pupils have plenty of opportunity to contact home via private landlines and e-mail.
“There is extremely compelling evidence to show that constant access to social media sites is damaging to children’s self-esteem and mental health. Staring at a phone screen instead of sitting and having a conversation with friends does not allow children to grow up with empathy or patience or all the qualities that society and employers value.
“Teenagers do not need the temptation to be checking social media sites during their breaks and leisure time. We are removing that temptation from them and allowing them time to simply be children again, to talk and play sport with each, to make friendships and to grow up without the constant shadow of the smartphone."
Mounting evidence suggests that ever-present social technology is making teenagers very unhappy. Rates of teenage depression and eating disorders are rising and many researchers claim they can be directly linked to the constant use of social media sites, with reported rates of mental illness directly correlating with increased time spent on the sites. Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield recently launched a campaign to help parents limit the time their children spend online, stating: “When phones, social media and games make us feel worried, stressed and out of control, it means we haven't got the balance right.”
Adolescence is a time for developing social skills, yet in surveys teenagers report going out less and having fewer relationships than their counterparts in previous decades. At the same time, social media sites require relentless documenting of activity and a constant need to present themselves in attractive photographs. Experts in the adolescent years claim that this is putting too much pressure on the teenage brain.
Dr Saxel adds: “At Cranleigh we have a huge range of sports and activities that teenagers take part in and a very busy calendar ensuring that they participate and yet even in this environment we have still seen the hugely addictive nature of smartphones and social media. It is especially important for the younger years to be able to grow and develop without constant fear of not looking right or presenting the best image on social media. We want to take away the choice for them and allow them to be children for longer. Our parental body has been extremely supportive and has even asked if we can extend it to other year groups.”
At the same time as removing mobile phones Cranleigh is trialling a one-to-one iPad device programme with approved apps installed and social media blocked. Technology is used throughout the curriculum and there are specialist departments teaching robotics and performance technology. Pupils have ready access to House and private landlines from which to contact relatives.
“This is not an anti-technology move, we are embracing digital learning in all lessons and extra-curricular activities. It is simply a way of helping teenagers to live with less pressure,” adds Dr Saxel.
Cranleigh is hosting a one-day conference on Technology and Teenage Mental Health in March next year, in association with the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust. The conference will host Deputies and Pastoral Leads from a range of South East schools and feature experts from the fields of neuroscience, mental wellness and adolescent psychology. A similar conference for parents is also planned.