Teachers claim iPad generation ‘can’t focus’

Ciara and Eimear Fox (9) with the tablets they love
Ciara and Eimear Fox (9) with the tablets they love

The number of hours children spend using electronic gadgets is having an adverse effect on their schooling, according to a leading teaching union.

With reports of pupils arriving at school unable to concentrate or socialise properly after intense usage, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) is calling on the Education Minister to take action.

Emma Quinn is a primary school teacher who has experienced aggressive behaviour while trying to control pupils who are “left to do as they like” at home.

“There’s a complete lack of motivation among many of my pupils – these gadgets are really destroying their ability to learn.

“They’re so used to the instant buzz which you can get with these games and gadgets that they find it really hard to focus on anything which isn’t exciting.

“All they want to do is to get back home so they can play on their Xbox or get on their tablet again.”

The Newtownabbey area-based teacher added: “They don’t even want to join in after-school clubs any more – because they’d rather play Call of Duty. How can you compete with that?”

The impact of digital technology will be the focus of the annual ATL conference being held in Belfast today.

Mark Langhammer, the ATL’s Northern Ireland director, said his union is concerned at the increasing number of reports from teachers who are worried about the damaging impact that overuse of digital technology appears to be having on their pupils.

“We’re hearing reports of very young children who are arriving into school quite unable to concentrate or to socialise properly because they’re spending so much time on digital games or social media.

“We’d like the Department of Education to issue guidance to all parents on the maximum amount of time which young children should spend on these devices, and on how kids can use digital technology safely and sensibly,” he said.

Ciara Fox from Omagh now regrets giving her twin daughters, Ciara and Eimear aged nine, iPad-type tablets when they were eight-years-old.

They were purchased as Christmas presents after pressure from her daughters that “nearly everyone else in their class” had them.

“We only allow the girls to use their tablets at weekends, but the devices have now become their major weekend preoccupation,” she said.

Mrs Fox added: “It’s really all they want to do and I find it incredibly difficult to drag them away from the tablets.

“When we’re in the car, they used to chatter away and look out the window – now they’re just glued to their tablets.”