Phone-Free Pact Introduced in Akureyri Schools Skip to content

Phone-Free Pact Introduced in Akureyri Schools

By Ragnar Tómas

Akureyri, North Iceland
Photo: Golli / Akureyri.

A working group in Akureyri has introduced a new phone-free pact in elementary schools, aiming to improve  students’ concentration and social lives by banning the use of smartphones during school hours starting in August. While teachers are pleased with the changes, student opinions are divided, with some expressing concerns about losing access to schedules and payment methods stored on their phones.

A clear desire for change

In November of last year, a working group on smartphone use in elementary schools in Akureyri, North Iceland, was established. The working group included elected representatives, parent and youth representatives, school staff, and personnel from the education and public health sectors. The group engaged in consultations with parents, students, and staff, as well as reviewing a UNESCO report on technology in schools, among other things.

In an article published in May of this year, Heimir Örn Árnason and Gunnar Már Gunnarsson – members of the working group – stated that the group had detected a clear desire for change:

“In all our conversations with parents and teachers, a clear desire for change emerged. Similarly, in our discussions with students, a strong desire was expressed to make better use of their free time for open communication, both in play and in breaks from study. Students in grades 8-10 understood the potential negative effects of smartphones but emphasised the need to ensure diverse entertainment options in schools to replace the undisputed entertainment value of phones.”

The phone pact takes effect

At the end of May, the group introduced new phone rules – the so-called “phone pact” (Símasáttmáli) – which are set to take effect at the beginning of the next school year this August.

As noted in a press release on Akureyri’s website, the primary goal of the pact is to create “a peaceful working environment in schools, promote better concentration, enhance social interactions, and improve the well-being of students and staff.”

In brief, the rules stipulate that students in elementary schools in Akureyri are not allowed to use phones during school hours, either inside the school or on the school grounds. This also applies to other smart devices that disrupt teaching and concentration. On Fridays, students in grades 8-10 are allowed to use phones during recess in designated areas.

Teachers pleased, students sceptical

Following news that the phone pact had been approved, RÚV visited Naustaskóli in Akureyri to interview teachers and students.

“I am extremely excited to see our teenagers get a little break,” Lovísa Oktavía Eyvindsdóttir, a teacher at Naustaskóli, stated. “I think they are yearning for this without daring to admit it.”

“I believe teenagers are stuck in deep ruts and can’t get out of them,” Lovísa continued, stating her belief that many students were trapped by their addiction to smartphones. “They should be able to come here to take a break and think about something else than the endless distraction from phones.”

As noted by RÚV, opinions among students at Naustaskóli about the proposed phone-free pact is divided; many are somewhat positive, while others are less so.

“This is simply not okay,” Selma Lárey, a 9th-grade student at Naustaskóli, observed. Selma noted that many students relied on their phones to keep track of time and check their schedules. “You never remember which class you’re going to, and then you’re always being scolded for being late, but they’re taking our phones away. We have the schedule on our lock screens.”

In addition to storing useful information, students also keep their bank cards in their phones. “Many kids go to stores for lunch because they don’t like the school food or don’t eat it. Kids are starving,” Ellý Sveinbjörg, a 9th-grade student, stated.

“Should I bring cash?” Selma asked. “Or a card and keep it in my jacket pocket? And you don’t know how much credit you have on your card; I don’t want to walk home to ask my mom.”

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