A recent UN report has suggested that school phones should be banned to help stop classroom disruption. But could changing how students use their phones be the answer instead?
While some schools in the UK have banned the use of phones, others are more lenient, recognising their potential for aiding learning. With 55% of children aged 5–11 owning a smartphone (jumping to 97% by age 12), many parents may hope to monitor certain apps and iOS features to oversee how their child uses their phone during school hours.
Ahead of the new school term, Jon Miller, group chief commercial officer at musicMagpie has shared six tips for parents wanting to encourage healthier, more productive phone use for their kids
Setting app limits
Parents can set a time limit for specific apps to control how much time their child spends on social media or gaming apps during the day under parental controls.
On iOS, this can be done either via family sharing or via the child’s phone itself. This can be done on Android devices via family links or “Digital Well-Being & Parental Controls” on your child’s device settings.
Once set up in Family Sharing or Family Link, only the parent has control of these settings.
Setting app time limits helps to set boundaries for healthy screen time habits. It ensures your children are not distracted during school hours or while completing out-of-school activities or homework. It may also help children spend time on their favourite apps more intentionally.
Parents can also set communication limits on their children’s phones, which block communication during certain times of the day or from specific contacts and apps.
On iOS, this can be done via activating screen time on their child’s device. They can schedule general school hours as “downtime,” where certain communications and notifications will be blocked during those hours. On Android, this can be done via the family link app.
Downtime is the perfect solution for ensuring no disruptions in class. It can be turned on at any point of the day but is scheduled specifically for school hours and will limit notifications or communications that would otherwise be distracting.
This mode can also be overridden if needed by a parent or in an emergency by selecting exceptions in the “downtime” settings.
Language learning apps
Plenty of fantastic language-learning apps are available, both educational and fun.
For those studying a new language, apps like Duolingo, Babbel and HelloChinese can be useful for additional practice while being fun and engaging. They can help to improve speaking, reading and writing abilities and are easily accessible.
These apps use gamification features to make learning feel like play. It’s the perfect way for your child to brush up on their skills before their next French exam or family holiday to Spain.
Live listen and sound amplifier
Live Listen is an important accessibility feature available on compatible iPhones and iPads, which can be used for children who are hard of hearing. Android phones can use Sound Amplifier instead.
These features allow your device to act as a remote microphone, streaming audio directly to your child’s hearing aid if they wear one or to compatible Bluetooth headphones. By leaving their phone at the front of the classroom at the start of a lesson, for example, or across the table in a noisy room, your child can use it to ensure they don’t miss out on anything important their teacher is saying.
If allowed by the school or college, transcribing apps can help make notes quickly and efficiently.
These apps work by converting real-time spoken language, in this case, the words of your child’s teacher, into written text, which can be saved onto their device.
This can be particularly useful for those who struggle to keep up and write quickly, or those with learning difficulties or who are neurodiverse.
If your child pays for their lunch or transport every day, setting up a digital wallet with a monitorable account on their phone is a good idea.
You can set these up within your child’s Google Wallet or Apple Pay settings so they always have a contactless payment available on their phone. This way, they should be able to pay for anything needed and are less likely to lose cash or misplace bank cards.
You can also put spending limits on these individual cards via your bank and set up Apple’s “Ask to Buy” feature, or “Purchase approvals” on Android, to be notified when your child tries to make certain purchases and give permission.