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ILCU survey shows 84% of parents favour a ban on mobile phones in schools

Posted on: 25 Aug 2023

84% of parents favour banning mobile phones in both primary and secondary schools the annual Back to School survey by the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) has shown.

The findings come as UNESCO, the UN ‘s education, science and culture agency recommended that only technology that supports learning is merited in schools, saying that mobile devices can cause distraction, risk pupil privacy and lead to cyber bullying.

723 parents responded to the survey which included questions on mobile phone usage. Key findings from the survey showed:

  • 84% of school parents support a ban on mobile phones in all schools throughout the day.
  • Parents of primary school children were more likely to favour a ban on mobile phones in schools (88%) compared to 77% of secondary school parents.
  • Over-use and time spent on mobile phones are parents' biggest concerns, around their child and their mobile phone, accounting for 30% of responses.
  • 23% were concerned about access to inappropriate content and
  • Bullying is also a significant concern for 19% of parents.


Despite these concerns, mobile phones are widespread among children, with 62% of parents reporting that their child owns a mobile phone. Primary parents reported an average age of 10.7 for their child's first phone, while secondary parents reported 13.5. 72% of school parents actively monitor their child's mobile phone and activity.

For primary parents, the top reasons for their child not owning a phone include concerns about being too young (89%), safety (36%), and privacy (22%). Secondary parents expressed worries about their child's privacy (60%) and safety (51%), with 38% concerned about excessive screen time.

David Malone, CEO of the Irish League of Credit Unions said: “As a community-focused organisation, we value the importance of healthy educational environments for our young people. It is crucial that we support measures that prioritise the well-being and academic performance of our children and the ILCU survey shows support among parents for a ban on mobile phones in schools during the day. Together with the UNESCO Report, our research shows that there is a compelling case for school trustees and indeed the Department of Education, in consultation with parents, to review the use of mobile phones in the school environment.”

In calling for countries to give better guidance on what type of technology should be allowed in schools, the UNESCO report said that several studies have shown that banning mobile phones from schools improves academic performance. Removing smartphones from schools in Belgium, Spain and the United Kingdom was found to improve learning outcomes, according to a study cited in the report, especially for students that were not performing as well as their peers. Speaking at an event last month, Minister Norma Foley, Minister for Education, emphasised the need for schools to provide a “safe and secure environment for young people to excel”.

The ILCU conducted its Back-to-School Research in June. The research also showed that the total spend on back-to-school costs is €1,152 for primary school parents and €1,288 for secondary school parents. More than 1 in 4 say they get into debt covering Back to School costs, with the average amount of debt being €306.