The use of cell phones in the class and school not only disrupts the teaching and learning process but they also contribute to violence in schools which starts with cyber bullying, says second vice president of the TT Unified Teachers Association Kyrla Robertson.
Robertson yesterday told Parliament’s Joint Select Committee on Social Services and Public Administration that while cell phones and other electronic devices create problems on a school day, these problems most times originate at the home.
“Many of the physical violence stems from the cyber bullying that starts months before in the home and after hours when teachers have no control over the children,” she said.
President of the National Parent Teacher Association Raffiena Ali-Boodoosingh suggested that because of the criminal situation in the country, parents give children cell phones to take to school. However, she said, they should not be given expensive phones with many features they do not need for learning purposes in the primary and secondary schools but just be given phones with features with which they could only communicate with their parents or guardians.
Gerald Phillips, Curriculum Officer/Lead, Information Communication Technology in Education, Ministry of Education said that the ministry has a cell phone policy that refers to cyber bullying, responsible use, students integrity and the preservation of their digital footprint when using social media and the internet.
While the policy allows schools to decide on the use of cell phones by students, he said, it gives clear guidelines for their usage by teachers and students in keeping with the laws of TT. The ministry, he said, has adopted a zero tolerance approach to anyone who breaches the law.
While the NPTA and TTUTA agreed that there should be some form of punishment for students who use cell phones and the internet to contribute to violence in schools, JSC Chairman Dhanayshar Mahabir and member Glenda Jennings Smith asked them to consider whether or not cyber bullying should be criminalised and be made punishable to all regardless of age.
Mahabir said then if cyber bullying is made a criminal offence, the IP (internet protocol) addresses of the cyber bullies can be tracked and they will have to answer for infractions of the law.