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Inappropriate Use of Mobile Phones by Students Rampant in Schools

By Lame Chaba (Botswana)

Most schools do not allow for the use of gadgets like cellphones by students during class and even on school premises.

However, the recent increase of circulated student-shot videos in schools indicates that many students get away with using cellphones in schools. Some of the videos include students engaging in ill behaviour; fights, sexual acts, drinking alcohol and smoking.

Cyber Psychologist and Coordinator of eBotho and Cybersmart BW Campaigns, David Moepeng says it is not advisable for children to carry their phones to school if such devices are not part of classroom learning materials. According to Moepeng, this is because mobile phones can be a distraction in class.  Mobile phones, especially with internet access, can be immersive and therefore require some level of maturity in order to be used appropriately.

“Since children are still developing, they may not have the ability to control their usage and therefore are likely to be distracted from learning activities in school,” Moepeng said.

He said children’s usage of gadgets like cellular phones depends on close monitoring and whether parents have trained their children on how to use phones sensibly.

In such cases, Moepeng says children tend to put gadgets to sensible use. It is wrong, he says, for parents to allow children to carry mobile phones to school when they have not been taught responsible use of the gadgets, and in most cases, when such use of gadgets is against the school rules.

Moepeng’s view is that online safety awareness and education is new and often preceded by access to the internet. He says that most people, including children, are introduced to the internet before they learn about how to use it wisely and safely. “Although there has not been a study to verify this with empirical evidence, the observation is that many children using the internet in Botswana are not adequately trained to use it wisely and safely”.

Moepeng says that a mobile phone can negatively affect academic performance if it is used for purposes other than learning in an academic environment.  This means, if used wisely, mobile devices with internet access especially, can enhance learning and lead to improved academic performance in children. He encourages parents to teach their children about safe and controlled use of digital technology and ensure that minors only carry mobile phones to school when there is assurance, through self-control behaviors, that he devises will be used


A teacher from a local junior secondary school says the use of cellphones in schools is tricky because today’s society lives in the world of technology where cellular phones are the mode of communication. She believes that carrying cellphones by students would not have been much of a problem if used wisely and for purposes of learning. However, negative peer pressure forces students to bring these cellphones to school just to show off to their peers.  Some are even bringing stolen phones just so they fit in with the rest. Once in school with the phones, the teacher adds, they explore pornographic content. 

“They don’t need these phones in school. Schools keep all parents’ details and in cases of an emergency that may require a parent’s attention, schools know where they reach parents,” says the teacher on condition of anonymity. In most schools, if a student is found in possession of a cellphone during lessons time, it is seized and only given back after school. Other consequences may be dictated by individual school policies on the matter.  Teachers say they wish that while they spend most of the time with students in schools, they feel that parents’ guidance is critical in dealing with the use and control of cellphones by students.