Education

Don't be afraid to take phones off teens, says Eton head


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Schools and parents should not be scared to take smartphones and other electronic devices away from teenagers, the headmaster of Eton has said.

Simon Henderson, head of the private school since 2015, says it is sometimes appropriate to take devices away.

Speaking at a Girls’ Day School Trust conference in London, Mr Henderson said Eton now requires its Year 9 boys to hand in their devices at night-time.

He said the boys liked the move, as it removed the pressure from them.

Asked how schools could help teenagers navigate social media, Mr Henderson told the conference: “It’s a 24/7 culture, but there’s a place for taking phones and things off them.

“Sometimes parents and schools are reluctant to do that.

“We’ve done that now at Eton. Our Year 9 pupils have to hand their devices in at night.

“We thought there’d be outrage from the boys, but they actually liked it – they had permission to not have to check this overnight.”

He said Year 9 boys, aged 13 and 14, handed them in at around 21:30 and got them back at around 07.45.

“Parents know it is happening and so are encouraged to call outside of those times.

“If there is a particular pastoral reason why a boy should have it overnight (eg homesickness) then the housemaster can give permission on a case-by-case basis.”

Former Ofsted boss and vice-chancellor of Reading University, Sir David Bell, also addressing the conference, was keen to point out the positive side of social media.

Sir David said it was a wonderful opportunity for youngsters to “connect up”.

But he acknowledged there were elements of social media that left young people vulnerable.

“We’ve had some students excluded very quickly by horrible social media traffic.”

It was important to help young people identify the “right sort of community” to be a part of, he added.



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