Sussex school teacher’s concern over screen-addicted pupils

8th June, 2022 7:49 am

Young children are viewing more “distressing” content online after becoming addicted to phones during the Covid lockdowns, teachers have said.

Concerns over children spending more time “than ever before” on screens were raised by Ofcom during the pandemic.

Sussex headteacher Sophie Gosden, who has seen pupils’ anxiety rise, said some were sleeping with phones under their pillows.

The government said it was providing support to schools.

Ms Gosden, head teacher at The Mill Primary Academy, Crawley, said online safeguarding incidents requiring teacher involvement had become “a regular occurrence”.

She has hired an extra staff member to join the school’s pastoral team, but said the issue needed “a more strategic view from governmental level and…more money being spent”.

Ms Gosden said if more mental health support for children was not provided, problems would continue into secondary school where youngsters were already becoming “school refusers”.

The Ofcom report, released in August 2020, described how lockdown restrictions left a space in children’s lives which they filled with social media, gaming and watching content.

Ms Gosden said when children returned to school after Covid they “didn’t want to be separated from their mobile phones at night”.

She said: “We’ve had some children in Years 5 and 6 that have slept with their mobile phones under their pillows because they’re frightened of missing out on notifications and they’d wake up in the morning and feel stressed out because they had 62 notifications that they’d feel they’d need to reply to.”

‘Nasty content’

Charlotte Aldham-Breary, head teacher at the Academy of Cuxton Schools in Rochester, Kent, said staff there were also facing challenges.

She said: “What we’re finding is sometimes children are on websites or apps that are not age appropriate. Sometimes the content they’re viewing online can be a little bit distressing.”

Luke Savage, from the NSPCC’s Child Safety Online team, said: “We know a huge number of children are being bullied online, or finding concerning or nasty content, often that they’re not even searching for, that they’re stumbling across – and the statistics around all of these issues point to the fact that it’s happening more and more.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “Our new world-leading online safety bill will put tough sanctions on internet platforms which fail to protect children from harmful or inappropriate content.

“We are also supporting schools to teach young people about the importance of online safety and positive mental health through the mandatory Relationship, Sex, and Health Education curriculum.

The government is also rolling out training to senior mental health leads in every state school and college by 2025, the spokeswoman added.

Source: BBC

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