Mobile Phone Use (School Guidance)

General Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at on 9 May 2024.

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Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

To ask—[ Interruption .]

Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

Give me a minute, Ms McNeill. Can we have Pauline McNeill’s microphone on, please?

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

To ask—[ Interruption .]

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

Third time lucky. To ask the Scottish Government whether it plans to issue guidance to schools encouraging them to prohibit the use of mobile phones by pupils. (S6O-03417)

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

As I confirmed in my statement to the Parliament on 12 December 2023, the Scottish Government will shortly publish updated guidance for schools regarding the use of mobile phones by pupils. As a starting point for that guidance, headteachers should be empowered to take any action that they deem to be necessary, including banning mobile phone use, should they see fit. Indeed, many headteachers have already chosen to do that in their school communities.

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

In secondary schools, the behaviour that is most commonly reported by staff as having the greatest negative impact is pupils using mobile phones when they should not be. People commonly assume that smartphones are a problem only in secondary schools, but one of my constituents has raised concerns about his child’s primary school, which has had problems with inappropriate content being circulated on WhatsApp groups and bullying via smartphones.

Is the Scottish Government looking into the extent of cyberbullying taking place in Scottish schools? What policies are being considered to beat the problem?

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

Pauline McNeill is right to highlight the issue in relation to primary schools. That was a key finding from the behaviour in Scottish schools research that the Government published in November.

The Government has a number of policies on anti-bullying, which we take extraordinarily seriously. It is worth putting on the record that, in the coming weeks, following the publication of the mobile phone guidance, we will publish an updated national action plan to address some of the challenges with behaviour in our schools. Through that work, we will seek to ensure that our anti-bullying policies are updated.

It is worth recording the real challenge that exists with mobile technology, and I would observe that the issue relates not only to schools but to our discourse in the Parliament.