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1 Mobiles /3 A4 3/14/06 2:54 PM Page 1 VISIT THE NUT HEALTH AND SAFETY POST Camera Mobile Phones Health and Safety Issues

2 Mobiles /3 A4 3/14/06 2:54 PM Page 2 To view everything from NUT News to advice on induction, visit

3 Mobiles /3 A4 3/14/06 2:54 PM Page 3 CAMERA MOBILE PHONES HEALTH AND SAFETY ISSUES Introduction Mobile phones pose a relatively new but significant health and safety hazard in schools. The use of camera mobile phones which take high quality pictures, has become common. Images can be sent instantly to other mobile phones or addresses. They can be posted on the internet or in chat rooms. This technology is particularly appealing to young people, including school pupils. It is, however, easy to abuse. Whilst most people use their phones responsibly, policies need to be developed and, where appropriate, action taken to prevent misuse. The NUT has become aware that camera mobile phones are increasingly being misused in schools. They can become an instrument of bullying or harassment directed against pupils and teachers. This NUT guidance document addresses the health and safety issues associated with the use of camera mobile phones in schools. There are other issues that schools need to address, such as the potential for misuse of the technology by paedophiles, vulnerability to theft, the use of inappropriately obtained images as evidence for disciplinary proceedings against teachers and the potential for cheating in examinations by photographing of examination papers. These should be addressed as part of school policies on ICT, behaviour and bullying. 1

4 Mobiles /3 A4 3/14/06 2:54 PM Page 4 Why Camera Mobile Phones are Becoming a Health and Safety Issue in Schools 1. Pupils can send offensive pictures or messages to other children or to staff in order to upset or humiliate them. To avoid receipt of offensive images or messages, NUT members are strongly advised not to provide mobile phone numbers to pupils. If there is a need to contact pupils by mobile phone, a school phone should be used. 2. Pupils can photograph fellow pupils or staff without their knowledge. Whereas with traditional cameras, such activity is normally obvious, this is not always the case with a camera phone. Many are small and discreet and it is easy to photograph individuals without their consent or knowledge, possibly in inappropriate situations. Photos can then be passed to other users, sometimes in a manipulated form, or sent to websites. It is extremely difficult to track down and delete such images. This is an invasion of privacy and can be extremely distressing for the subjects of the photographs. 3. A further issue of concern is the particularly unpleasant craze, known as happy slapping. This involves pupils ganging up on victims, assaulting them and photographing the attacks with mobile phones. 2 In the light of these developments, the NUT is determined to do all it can do to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of NUT members. The NUT believes that schools should, where necessary, revise their behaviour policies to set out the following information clearly for all staff: when and whether pupils are permitted to carry camera mobile phones on the school grounds and when phones should be switched off;

5 Mobiles /3 A4 3/14/06 2:54 PM Page 5 in which situations staff should confiscate camera mobile phones and where phones should be stored until they are returned to the pupil/parent/carer; what sanctions are appropriate if a camera mobile phone is used inappropriately; and how to respond to an incident where a camera mobile phone is being used to intimidate, threaten or bully staff or pupils. Even where no problems have occurred thus far, it is important to establish clear rules to prevent instances of harassment. The policy should stress that incidents should be reported. Schools, in consultation with local authorities, should decide their own policies regarding camera mobile phone use, based on an assessment of risk. Most schools will have protocols in place dealing with the use of speechonly mobile phones; adapting these to include camera phones, therefore, including sanctions for misuse, should be straightforward. Options for Schools There are various policy options to be considered in the context of their impact on teachers workload and stress levels. The NUT recommends that local authorities draw up guidance for schools on these issues. Some have already done so. Governing bodies in consultation with staff can then implement policies that meet the needs of their schools. Within the school behaviour policy, there are three possible strategies for consideration. 3

6 Mobiles /3 A4 3/14/06 2:54 PM Page 6 1. An outright ban on all mobile phones, both camera and speech-only. Even without the camera element, they are a distraction, offering games and music. Schools adopting such a policy can choose to confiscate any phones that are brought in and require that they be picked up by parents. Such phones are also an increasingly attractive target for criminals and pupils displaying their latest status symbol phone may be making themselves vulnerable to this form of crime. If such a policy is adopted, cell phone detectors can be installed across schools or in particularly sensitive areas such as examination rooms. Realistically such a ban may be difficult to enforce because many parents feel that mobile phones offer their children an element of security and enable them to stay in touch if, for example, their child is worried about bullying. It may also be the case that teachers may not wish to continually have to challenge pupils about mobile phones. It is, however, worth noting that according to a June 2005 survey of 50 London schools, undertaken by the Evening Standard, 56 per cent of head teachers reported that they had imposed a complete ban on all mobile phones. 2. A ban on any mobile phone that can take and display photographs. Under this option pupils could still bring other types of phone into school, thus neutralising parental objections. If this option is chosen, schools will need to decide how the policy will be enforced and what sanctions will apply for misuse. It may, in some cases, be difficult to distinguish between the different types of phones. 4

7 Mobiles /3 A4 3/14/06 2:54 PM Page 7 3. Allowing mobile phones of all types to be brought into school but requiring them to be turned off during lessons, and placed in bags. As with the first option, the installation of cell phone detectors could help enforce the policy. Whatever action a school decides to take, the end result must be that staff and pupils are protected from harassment. NUT members who encounter the malicious use of camera mobile phones by pupils should seek guidance from their NUT Regional Office or, NUT Cymru in Wales. Action for NUT Safety Representatives In the context of consultation on the school behaviour policy: members should be consulted on the most appropriate method of addressing the problem in their school; the School Behaviour policy should then be revised to include the issues which staff do not feel are clearly covered; and any problems should be reported to the health and safety adviser or division secretary of the appropriate division or association, or to the NUT Regional Office, or NUT Cymru in Wales. 5

8 Mobiles /3 A4 3/14/06 2:54 PM Page 8 FOR YOUR NEWS AND HEALTH AND SAFETY INFORMATION VISIT THE POST Designed and published by The Membership, Communications and Training Department of The National Union of Teachers Origination by Paragraphics Printed by Victoria House Printing Co /03/06

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