Iceland’s Minister of Education and Children has announced a nationwide initiative to create guidelines for smartphone usage in primary schools. The move comes in response to new research highlighting both the widespread ownership of mobile devices among Icelandic children and the growing concerns about the technology’s potential negative impact on their well-being and academic performance.
A reference point for schools
Ásmundur Einar Daðason, Iceland’s Minister of Education and Children has announced an initiative to formulate guidelines for smartphone usage in primary schools nationwide. The guidelines will be the result of consultations involving parents and children, local authorities, school administrators, teachers, and other key stakeholders. The forthcoming guidelines are intended to serve as a reference point for schools as they develop their own policies on smartphone usage. A key focus of the initiative is to ensure robust educational programmes aimed at mitigating any adverse effects associated with mobile phone usage in educational settings.
Recent research conducted by the Media Commission and the Institute of Education at the University of Iceland reveals a near-ubiquitous presence of mobile phones among Icelandic children. Ninety-five percent of students in grades 4-7 own a mobile device and 98% in grades 8-10. The percentage of students utilising the internet for academic purposes on a daily basis is considerably lower in younger grades, however, but increases gradually from 7% in grades 4-7 to 38% in grades 8-10, and reaching 74% in secondary schools.
An urgent need to address the issue
While information and communication technology (ICT) plays an important role in the educational experience, there is an urgent need to address its potential downsides for children and young adults within the Icelandic educational system. Emerging research indicates a significant surge in screen time, especially among children, adversely affecting their sleep, mental, and physical well-being. Studies also suggest that implementing restrictions on mobile phone usage within schools can enhance academic performance, particularly for students who are academically challenged.
“As technology continues to advance, it’s evident that it carries both merits and drawbacks,” Minister Ásmundur Einar Daðason is quoted as saying. “In Iceland, where screen usage is already high and on the rise, opinions on the issue are diverse, and existing school policies are inconsistent or sometimes non-existent. Our objective is to establish well-defined criteria for primary schools and bolster educational programmes to address this. We aim to navigate these technological advancements in a manner that prioritises the well-being and academic success of our children.”