Are mobiles in schools a boon or just a bane?
Many adults have become addicted to their internet-linked phones, to the extent that we often speak at them when we shouldn't. Labour leader Ed Miliband is reported to have ticked off a senior Shadow Minister for thinking his BlackBerry is more important than the people around him.
So we can hardly blame teenagers for being tempted to send a quick text or share a sneaky YouTube clip in a dull lesson.
Better to remove the possibility, some head teachers say, by having an outright ban on phones of any kind during the school day.
But others take the view that the technology is here to stay and students should learn restraint and appropriate behaviour while teachers should harness the possibilities of mobile technology as an aid to collaborative learning.
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Dave Baker, executive head of Abbeywood Community School in Stoke Gifford, does not allow phones in lessons or at break times.
He has noticed that one effect is that students now talk to each other more outside lesson time and interact rather than sitting side by side staring at tiny screens (possibly sending messages to one another).
Mobiles bring other obvious potential problems – sharing of inappropriate material, cyber-bullying, and theft. Phone cameras are also open to misuse in class.
Peggy Farrington, head of Hanham High School, said her school had never allowed mobiles during the day and students who brought them knew they had to hand them in on arrival and collect them before going home.
"I am not naïve enough to think there are not students who keep their phones at the bottom of their bags all day. We would never search for them, but if a phone is found we confiscate it and the parent has to collect it," she said. "There is no argument about this. It is a rule for a reason. It makes it easier for teachers to teach and makes school safer for children."
Ofsted Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw is considering recommending all schools adopt an outright ban as part of a general crackdown on discipline.
But there is no doubt that many parents like the idea of their child having a phone and being able to contact them in times of trouble.
The Department for Education says: "Parents should take responsibility for whether or not their children have phones in the first place.
"It is up to individual head teachers to decide if and when mobile phones should be used by pupils in school."
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "An outright ban would send a message to pupils that schools are out of touch with the world in which they live and ignore the many positive benefits of new technologies in education. Banning mobiles will only serve to make them more attractive and instead, pupils would be better served by learning to use them effectively.
"Far better to use these technologies as a force for good than attempt to coerce the genie back into the bottle.
"Mobiles can certainly be disruptive in schools, and most schools will be sympathetic with the need to regulate their use. They are also aware of the vulnerability of young people to theft. We would suggest combining the use of technology boxes, where pupils hand in their phones at the start of lessons and retrieve them afterwards, with a clear and consistently enforced policy on appropriate use of mobile phones in the classroom."
By buying their child an android, BlackBerry, iPhone or similar handheld device, parents are giving them unlimited access to all the internet has to offer, both good and bad.
They need to consider whether the youngster is mature enough to make positive use of this online access while avoiding the inherent dangers and temptations.
One problem for both parents and teachers is that they are themselves less confident with technology than the younger generation.
Some schools offer e-safety training for parents, which is unsurprisingly very popular.
Redland High School for Girls, for example, helps ensure its students can surf the net safely by using a filtering service to reduce the risk of access to potentially offensive material. The school also monitors email and internet use.
A school spokeswoman said: "In general we believe that the benefits to pupils from access to the internet, in the form of information resources exceed any disadvantages. However we lay out specific rules that cover email, the internet, social networking and mobile phone use in our contract with students and encourage parents to discuss these with their daughters.
"Parents unclear about new technology and the potential dangers are given support by Redland High and provided with information. All new families receive a copy of the Home Office booklet 'Keeping your child safer online'. Lessons and assemblies are also delivered using materials and videos from CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) addressing problems that may arise in an appropriate way and sensitive to the age of the students concerned."
Headmistress Caroline Bateson added: "We have had a policy covering e-safety for some time. This is included within our student contracts and covers the use of email, the Internet, social networking and mobile phone use. We also give lesson time to talking to our Year 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 students about e-safety. We place a great deal of importance on e-safety for our students whether they are at School or at home and direct parents to resources that will also aid them in encouraging the use of technology safely."
Similar and regularly updated training is vital for staff too, as is ensuring that policies and protocols on the use of technology are reviewed frequently.
Experts say these should make very clear what is and is not permitted for all users of social media.
Bristol-based child protection expert David Niven said there was a need for more support for parents, schools, institutions and professional individuals.
He is critical of parents who falsify their children's age so they can sign up to Facebook below the permitted age of 13 then do not take action to ensure the account – and, in particular the images posted on it – is protected.
Such parents would not dream of buying whisky for a pre-teen or allowing them to watch an 18-rated movie, yet they were guilty of neglect by omission if they did not try to make sure they were aware of dangers online, he said.
"Children have to be protected until they are sophisticated enough to make up their own minds," said Mr Niven, of David Niven Associates. Incredibly, there are estimated to be 82 million bogus Facebook accounts worldwide.
Maria Miller, the new Culture Secretary, has said that parents must take responsibility for stopping their children looking at internet pornography. She said the Government would consider automatic filters to block hardcore porn but that mums and dads must make sure their children were safe.
A petition signed by more than 110,000 people calling for service providers be made to compulsorily block access to hard core online porn on computers, mobile phones and tablets was handed to 10 Downing Street last week.
The Government has been asking parents for their views on three possible systems, including one where users have to "opt in" to see adult sites, one in which customers are presented with an unavoidable choice about whether they want filters and blocks installed and a third that combines the two systems.
Devizes MP Claire Perry, who grew up in North Somerset and went to Nailsea School, has been campaigning strongly on the issue, because she says a majority of parents do not use the existing controls.