The growing use of tablet computers risks distracting children from school work, a survey of Northern Irish teachers has found.
Two-thirds of experienced teachers also felt there was a risk of pupils accessing inappropriate material in the classroom, according to the study carried out for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.
The union’s Northern Ireland director, Mark Langhammer, said that, at a time when schools are increasingly turning to the devices as “a central aspect” of education, the report should be a “wake up call”.
Mr Langhammer said: “As things stand, there’s a serious risk that the education and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of children could be compromised if the concerns highlighted in this survey prove to be justified...
“Our feedback suggests that a growing number of schools across the UK are moving towards making tablets a central aspect of classwork and homework.
“Yet there’s been very little debate around the desirability of this move, and international research tells us ‘the jury is out’ in terms of the overall educational value of tablet usage.”
The union’s online survey canvassed the views of 376 teaching staff and parents from across Northern Ireland, most of whom had educational tablet experience.
The report, ‘Tablets in Schools: How Useful Are They?’ by research consultant Dr Liz Fawcett found that 82 per cent of respondents believed pupils could be distracted by other activities on tablets, like gaming or messaging, if devices were used for homework.
Meanwhile, 72 per cent believed pupils could become distracted when using tablets in classrooms.
Turning to teaching staff with tablet experience, 64 per cent felt there was a risk of access to inappropriate material in classrooms.
However, there was also strong support for the idea that the devices do have some educational use in classrooms.
The Department of Education has invested about £170m in delivering the C2k Education Network, which provides the internet and other infrastructure to schools.
A spokeswoman said the safety of pupils is a priority, and the C2k network has appropriate filters and security in place.