Smartphone ban hits one of the U.K’s poshest schools

A person holding the Nokia 3210.
The Nokia 3210. Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

One of the U.K.’s most elite schools has announced it will ban smartphones use among its next intake of students. But so that they can stay connected, the students will be issued with a run-of-the-mill Nokia handset capable only of making calls and sending texts.

The new rule has been brought in by the $64,000-a-year Eton College boys’ boarding school over increasing concerns about the impact of smartphone use on younger people’s mental health and general well-being. It’s also hoped that the ban will reduce classroom distractions and improve behavior.

Eton College, located in the town of Windsor just west of London, was founded nearly 600 years ago and is famous for having turned out generations of political leaders, including 20 of the country’s prime ministers, Boris Johnson and David Cameron among them. Other notable alumni include Princes William and Harry, novelist George Orwell, James Bond creator Ian Fleming, and Oscar-winning actor Harry Redmayne.

From this September, Eton College’s new intake of 13-year-old students will be banned from using a smartphone at all times. Mike Grenier, Eton’s deputy head, recently wrote to the parents of new boarders to let them know that the SIM from their child’s smartphone will be transferred to a school-issued Nokia handset, the Standard reported. It’s not clear which specific Nokia handset they’ll be getting, but it could be something like the recently released Nokia 3210, which a Digital Trends’ handset reviewer described as “the worst phone I’ve used in 2024.”

Nokia markets the 3210 with the tagline, “No apps. No hassle. Take a break from scrolling and reconnect with what matters.” It means the students will have to go without TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat. But it does have Snake.

The school will also offer the use of iPads for educational use.

“When used responsibly and in moderation, [smartphones] can be a key part of life for the modern teenager and can create positive social networks and give access to news and views from around the world,” Grenier said.

“However, despite these positives, there are also associated challenges and potential areas for concern, especially around socialization, misuse, and overuse, and the impact on both mental and physical health.” The school noted that “age-appropriate controls remain in place for other year groups.”

Eton’s smartphone ban comes as the U.K.’s recently elected Labour government said it was “open-minded” on the idea of banning social media for children to protect their mental health.

Research by Common Sense Media found that about 91% of children in the U.S. have a smartphone by the age of 14, a situation that has prompted similar handset bans in schools there, CBS News reported. U.S. Department of Education data from the 2021-2022 school year saw some 76% of schools prohibit the non-academic use of smartphones.

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