Hyperconnectivity: a way forward

The trend towards hyperconnectivity involving calls, texts and instant messaging has accelerated in recent years.

The trend towards hyperconnectivity involving calls, texts and instant messaging has accelerated in recent years. The effect on our pupils has been such that it at the beginning of this academic year, Merchant Taylors' drafted a comprehensive mobile phone policy. Its aim was to encourage pupils to try to make more judicious use of their phones and ensure they start to disconnect a little from their devices. We have been delighted with the results; while the boys still have recourse to their phones at certain times, they now have less opportunity to use them and so have started to reduce their dependence on them.

While phones have an evident ability to distract all of us, due to their being internet-enabled they also have a more insidious capacity as a result of the power of social media and instant messaging. Both can result in cyber-bullying - a hot topic in the media - and as guardians of your sons' wellbeing we take this responsibility extremely seriously. We therefore make the boys aware of this at the start of every year and underline the importance of respect in the online sphere. Tutor periods and assemblies offer the chance for this message to be reinforced on a regular basis.

As a school, we do, of course, encourage the boys to take advantage of the many opportunities to work with new technology. Along with cutting-edge IT facilities the boys are fortunate that in subjects as diverse as Art, Modern Languages, Music and DT they can access technology which will only enhance their learning. The emphasis here, though, is that they are active participants in this process and are able to fully exploit these opportunities. Phones in their latest guise can, however, become so addictive that they can appear to start controlling their users - it is this which we are keen to guard against.
While discussions on this issue can sound a little depressing, one must accentuate the obvious advantages of tackling it head-on. By reducing mobile phone usage on campus by, for example, prohibiting their use in the Dining Hall, boys can focus more on their peers and interact as they always have done. Equally, by warning of the dangers of either excessive use of social media or dangers that might lie therein, we hope to ensure the wellbeing of all our pupils in what is a highly influential medium. I am pleased to say that feedback thus far from our parents has been very positive and we anticipate that the benefits of this slight change of direction will continue to be felt.