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“Government Approves Nationwide Ban on Smartphones for Primary School Children”

Cabinet ministers have given overwhelming approval to new guidelines proposed by Education Minister Norma Foley, calling for a comprehensive ban on smartphones in all primary schools and extending the prohibition beyond school hours. The proposals provide strong political support to schools opting to ban devices on their premises and urge parents to uphold the ban for primary school-aged children even outside school hours. The Department of Education has crafted guidelines for parents, available online and set to be distributed to all primary schools.

If widely adopted, Minister Foley’s proposed code of conduct could lead to a voluntary ban on smartphone sales to primary school children, driven by parental initiatives. Minister Foley, a former teacher, emphasises the importance of whole-of-government backing to assist school principals and boards of management in implementing the ban effectively. The proposed ban, inspired by the Greystones model where a community collectively decided not to buy phones for primary school-aged children, aims for nationwide societal change through the power of collective action.

Minister Foley acknowledges the limitations of issuing a directive to parents and prefers a practical approach. The focus is on fostering community-driven change, with the minister citing the prevalence of bullying in schools facilitated by smartphones as a key motivator for the ban. The guidelines are designed to address concerns about cyberbullying and online harms faced by primary school children. While the proposal has received cabinet approval, it has not garnered unanimous political support.

Labour TD Aodhan O Riordain criticises the initiative, dismissing it as “Fianna Fáil PR spin” and deeming the guidelines as lacking substance. He contends that the government should address more pressing issues, such as teacher shortages and maternity cover, rather than issuing what he considers to be meaningless guidelines.

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