Local Fine Gael TD, Frances Fitzgerald, has welcomed the announcement of greater consultation with students and parents in relation to the use of smart phones in schools.

“This week, my colleague Minister for Education Richard Bruton, announced that he will be publishing a circular to all schools requiring them to consult with parents, teachers and students on the use of smart phones and tablet devices in schools.

“Greater consultation with our students and their parents is one of the main provisions of the Education (Parent and Student Charter) Bill 2016 which Government is currently progressing,” said Fitzgerald.

Under this circular, schools will be requested to consult parents and students on whether tablet devices and smart phones in schools are appropriate for use in schools, if allowed in schools what the purpose and use of them should be, what restrictions (such as age, when they are allowed to be used etc) that may be applied and measures to ensure a shared approach on the appropriate use of digital technologies in the home and during students free time as well as possible awareness raising initiatives.

Fitzgerald elaborated: “Smart devices and new technologies open up many positive opportunities for our students. However in recent years, parents have understandable concerns about the safety of young people online and schools are working hard to best manage student’s access to social media and the internet during school hours.

“It is a positive step to see that schools are being asked to include their students and parents views when developing school policy. I am also pleased that this consultation will look at a shared approach on the appropriate use of digital technologies at home and during student’s free time. If we take the example of bullying before social media, bullying ended at the school gates. One of the unfortunate aspects of the digital age is that bullying can now follow the student home via their phones and social media accounts. I am hopeful that greater awareness of online safety along with a unified approach on smart phones and devices could be helpful to our students whether they are at home or in school.”

“The Minister’s announcement that schools will be asked to consult with their school community on the use of smart phones and devices in their schools will ensure that everyone, from pupils, staff and parents have a shared understanding of their rights and responsibilities. This new approach to school policy issues is a welcome aspect of the new Parent and Student Charter Bill being developed at present aimed at ensuring open and productive communication between schools, parents and students,” concluded Fitzgerald.