Mobiles should be out of the classrooms
A doctoral thesis from NHH last year sparked the debate on mobile phone bans in schools: Sara Abrahamsson's research showed that banning mobile phones led to better grades and less bullying. Now the government is tightening the rules on mobile phone usage significantly.
A ban on mobile phone use in secondary school has a clear positive effect on students' grades, especially for girls. It also contributes to less bullying. This was revealed in Sara Abrahamsson' s doctoral thesis from May 2023.
After coverage in VG and an NRK debate, the study caught the attention of politicians.
ALSO A LEGISLATIVE PROPOSAL
Last week, The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training, commissioned by the government, published their "Recommendations on regulating mobile phones and smartwatches in schools" (in Norwegian).
The Directorate recommends the following:
- strictly regulating the use of private mobile phones and smartwatches during lessons and breaks in primary and secondary school
- strictly regulating the use of private mobile phones and smartwatches during lesson time in high school
Parallel to the work of the Directorate, politicians in the Parliament have also discussed mobile-free schools: This week, the proposal for a complete ban on mobile phone use in schools was discussed in the education committee in the Parliament.
The proposers refer to Sara Abrahamsson's research on students in schools with mobile phone bans, where they "experience less bullying and better grades than students at schools that allow mobile phone use."
The proposal was voted down in the committee. Several members argued that one must first see how the Directorate's recommendation will work in practice before considering "further national regulation."
EFFECTS, ALSO IN THE LONGER TERM
Sara Abrahamsson's thesis "Essays on Empirical Labor and Health Economics" is the first in Norway to examine whether a mobile phone ban in secondary school has effects in the slightly longer term. She shows that a ban on smartphones significantly increases girls' average grades.
It improves their test results in mathematics and increases the likelihood that they will choose an academic program in high school. At the same time, the ban helps to reduce bullying. The effects are most visible among girls. One explanation for this effect may be that girls use their mobile phones significantly more than boys at this age.
A REASONABLE POLITICAL TOOL
A ban on smartphones in schools can be a reasonable political tool to improve educational outcomes and reduce bullying, Abrahamsson argued. Sara Abrahamsson is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
She has been a research fellow at the Department of Economics and was affiliated with the Centre for Experimental Research on Fairness, Inequality and Rationality (FAIR). Her main supervisor was Professor Aline Bütikofer and her co-supervisor was Professor Kjell G. Salvanes, both at the Department of Economics and FAIR.