One of world’s most elite high schools bans smartphones, issuing Nokia ‘brick’ phones instead

One of world’s most elite high schools bans smartphones, issuing Nokia ‘brick’ phones instead

Eton College, one of the U.K.’s most prestigious schools, has decided to ban its pupils from using smartphones on campus – a policy shift that has been seen as archaic by some, and nostalgic by others.

According to the school, students turning 14 during the school year will be provided with Nokia ‘brick’ phones, which are limited to calling and texting.

This change, which affects students who can expect to pay £49,000 ($64,000) annually in tuition, was communicated to parents through a letter. The school suggested children should swap their SIM cards into these school-issued devices.

The new regulations build on an existing policy that requires younger students, specifically those in their first three years, to relinquish their electronic devices overnight. The school believes that these measures will lessen distractions in the classroom and improve behavior.

A spokesperson for Eton supported the school’s approach to technology, stating, “Eton routinely reviews our mobile phone and devices policy to balance the benefits and challenges that technology brings to schools.

“From September those joining in Year 9 will receive a ‘brick’ phone for use outside the school day, as well as a school-issued iPad to support academic study. Age-appropriate controls remain in place for other year groups.”

Eton College, located in the town of Windsor just west of London, was founded nearly 600 years and is renowned for its alumni, which includes 20 British prime ministers like Boris Johnson and David Cameron, as well as notables such as Princes William and Harry, writer George Orwell, James Bond creator Ian Fleming, and actor Eddie Redmayne.

Concerns over smartphone usage in schools

Mike Grenier, Eton’s deputy head, wrote to the parents of new boarders saying that their child’s smartphone should be taken home after its SIM card is transferred to a school-issued Nokia handset.

He said: “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.

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

The move is not unique to Eton, with other institutions like Alleyn’s, Brighton College, and Thomas’s also implementing similar restrictions on smartphone usage.

The Labour Party recently expressed an “open-minded” stance on potentially banning social media for children, aligning with a report from the Education Select Committee which stressed the “serious dangers” associated with smartphone usage by youngsters. The report reiterated the disproportionate risks versus benefits of increased screen time among children and teens.

In May, the committee suggested that the next government should consider a ban on smartphones for those under 16, citing disturbing trends in how these devices are affecting youth. Robin Walker, chairman of the committee, pointed out the “extensive damage” being caused by excessive use of these devices among young people. The report also revealed that about one in four children exhibit phone usage patterns that resemble addiction.

Which Nokia phone could be introduced to schools?

Amidst these concerns, the Nokia 3210 was reintroduced in May to celebrate its 25th anniversary, with Human Mobile Devices (HMD) branding it as a “cultural icon.” The relaunch aims to cater to the growing demand for simpler, less addictive devices as part of a broader digital detox trend.

The updated 3210 now features a two-megapixel camera, supports 4G calling, and retains the classic game Snake, priced at £74.99.

HMD’s chief marketing officer, Lars Silberbauer, spoke about the renewed relevance of the Nokia 3210, saying, “The Nokia 3210, a cultural icon, is back at the pinnacle of the global dumbphone boom as consumers look to balance their screen time usage with a digital detox.

“The Nokia 3210 has simplicity at its core, allowing consumers to be totally present. Forget dumbphone, this is 2024’s fun phone.”

Featured image: HMD / Canva