Kerry school bans social media and smartphones both in class and at home
The experiment is being tried out on a group of 6th class pupils at a Kerry school.
A Kerry school has placed a ban on students' use of smartphones, tablets and social media both inside and outside school hours.
The 'Social Media Fast' is being run by Blennerville National Primary School in Tralee as an 11-week experiment with full parental support, as a result of issues that had arisen from the pupils' use of social media and messaging groups.
Speaking with JOE, school principal Terry O'Sullivan said the idea initially came as a result of "a series of incidents with inappropriate use of social media.
"Through the course of the last year, we had seen repeated incidents occurring on messaging groups set up within our 6th class students.
"It was on Snapchat, Instagram, these kind of groups, and it was affecting friendships, leading to arguments. Negative messages were being sent.
"We had initially tried to deal with each incident as it came by speaking to parents. For a few weeks, that was fine. They would take the devices off children and delete the apps, but unfortunately they would be downloaded again and the whole thing would start over."
The experiment, he says, was agreed upon after a school meeting was called on Thursday, 12 April, which required at least one parent from each family to attend and discuss the persistent issue.
"We went through the impact these groups were having on school life. Having investigated it, we saw the damage it did to class dynamics and the children emotionally, and it was things some of the parents often weren't aware of themselves."
One problem, he says, stemmed from the limits of a ban on smart devices and social media. "Outside school, you're dealing with a grey area," O'Sullivan observes. "Our recommendation was to work with parents for 11 weeks.
"We all came to the agreement to remove their children from social media apps and to take the smartphones away from them. As we had seen before, you couldn't just delete the apps, because children found a way around it. So the devices were removed, both inside and outside the classroom."
Wanting to stress that the school is not simply attempting to deny the existence of digital technology, especially since it also has classes devoted to basic coding, O'Sullivan went on to say: "Obviously these devices can be used as educational tools, but we have to encourage responsibility.
"We got a consensus, and whatever happens next will be reviewed after the end of the 11-week period."
While still in the early stages of the trial, he noted positive results already, saying: "So far it's been positive feedback.
"This has brought parents together as a group, and one particular parent has said that she has seen vast improvements in her daughter's behaviour. She's engaging in activities like reading, baking, talking and not looking at a screen 24-7.
"It's going in the right direction. I suppose they're finally doing what 11 and 12-year-olds should be doing."