Page 8 - Independent Schools Magazine
P. 8

Pupil Wellbeing ~ special report
No mobile phone use during ‘Phone Fast’
Benenden School, Kent. has announced that mobile phones and social media will not be available for pupils for three days this month (March) to help them reduce their reliance on digital technology.
During the School’s Phone Fast, girls will hand in their mobiles
one Sunday evening and will live without them until Wednesday. Social media will also be blocked on the School’s network for students during this period.
Girls will still be able to contact home during the Phone Fast, as landline phones are available in each boarding house.
The Phone Fast has been introduced as part of measures to raise awareness among girls and parents of the risks that social media presents to the wellbeing of young people. Staff will also be invited to take part if they wish.
The initiative was developed
in partnership with a group of Sixth Formers, who asked senior
management and their boarding staff how they could encourage pupils to reduce, and manage more effectively, their mobile phone use. Prizes will be awarded to the House that lasts the longest without their phones.
Headmistress Samantha Price, who will also be going without her mobile during the Phone Fast, said: “Mobile phone use and addiction to social media is particularly topical, and rightly so, for its overuse among this generation is an af iction which is affecting the mental health and wellbeing of young people.
“As with most issues, the best
way to address concerns about social media use in young people
is through educating adults and children. Our Phone Fast is part
of this effort to educate our girls, particularly that there is life beyond social media and that we can all live and thrive either without it for a time, or in moderation.”
The response from parents to the announcement of the Phone Fast has been tremendous.
Mrs Price added: “I am expecting our Phone Fast to cause disquiet among some students, but if just one girl decides to switch off her phone an hour before they go to bed, then it will have been worth it.”
Victoria Molloy, Benenden’s Head Girl, said: “I can’t wait to see how the Phone Fast will prove that there is more to life than just our phones and social media.”
Alyssa Cho, another Sixth Former involved in the initiative, said: “We hope that everyone will take their eyes off their screens and enjoy what is around them.”
The issue of teenagers’ reliance on social media has frequently been in the media in recent weeks:
• The Education and Health select committees announced a joint inquiry into the role that schools play in helping to prevent
young people from developing mental health issues – a concern across schools of all types in the country and beyond.
• This was followed by a report from the Children’s Commissioner in which she warned that social media companies were not
doing enough to ensure children understood what they might do with their pictures, their words and their personal information.
• Then, in her  rst major announcement of the calendar year, the Prime Minister unveiled plans to transform mental health services for young people.
The School already has strict rules around girls’ use of mobiles. Until girls reach Year 11, they hand their phones in at night and no phones are allowed in School during
the day. Sixth Formers have the privilege of having their phones during the day as long as they are not seen in lessons without permission.
Presentations were also delivered to staff and parents and Headmaster, Alexander Mitchell, said, “It is imperative that we, as adults, model good habits in our own attitudes towards our mental wellbeing if
we hope for our children to take these messages seriously”. The Headmaster added that this was not just a week-long strategy. Not only does the school have a robust Emotional Intelligence programme in place for children as part of
its PSHCE provision but the latin motto of the 95 year old school, “Laetatus Sum,” translates as “I am happy”!
Happiness is the key to progress!
Holmwood House Preparatory School, Essex, places this, its guiding principle, above all else.
Wellbeing Week at Holmwood House last month (February) aimed to help equip children in every
year group with the enduring
skills, habits and attitudes that
they require for future health and happiness and to raise awareness with all members of the community of the importance of good mental health. Visiting speakers included
experts on body image and self- esteem in children and on mental health  rst aid. Holistic approaches to physical, mental and emotional health were also addressed with the visit of a practitioner of alternative therapies amongst other events.
8 Independent Schools Magazine
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