Kids are playing and having conversations with their friends at lunchtime and are finding it easier to be organised at school without their mobile phones.
That’s just some of the feedback from students at secondary schools in New South Wales and Victoria that have banned student phones.
The NSW Government banned student phones in all state (government) primary schools from the beginning of the 2019 year, with voluntary bans for state secondary schools. Victoria will have similar bans in place for the beginning of the 2020 school year. Independent (also called non-government) schools can choose to impose bans and some schools have already done so.
While some schools in other states have imposed their own bans, the Queensland and Tasmanian governments both said in June they were not intending to ban phones, despite Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan calling for a national ban and promising to work with the states to achieve this.
The South Australian Government said in June it was considering a ban.
LET’S PLAY CRICKET
The King’s School at North Paramatta, NSW, has voluntarily banned all electronic devices during school hours for students up to year 10.
Deputy Headmaster Stephen Edwards said they trialled the ban with Year 7 students last term then extended it to years 8, 9 and 10.
He said he wanted to change things after noticing students at lunchtime all with bent necks staring into their phones and not interacting with each other.
“We have a beautiful environment and we wanted the boys to engage with that environment and engage with each other,” he said.
“One of the housemasters* said it was the first time in years that the cricket bat has come out and all of a sudden the boys were doing things together and they weren’t sitting on their phones.”
The devices aren’t locked away but students must keep them turned off, with those caught using a mobile having it confiscated* for a day.
Those busted a second time have it confiscated for a week and on a third offence parents are called.
For King’s student Robert Napoli, 15, having a phone in the playground was a burden and believes the ban has been widely accepted.
“It takes a load off their shoulders not having a phone in their hand and not having to check their phone every two minutes,” he said.
Angus Williams, also 15, said not being able to check emails and his timetable during lunch was annoying but meant he had to get more organised.
“I like the new phone policy because you can now have a fully immersive* conversation with someone at lunchtime, rather than a person looking at the phone and the conversation getting off track,” he said.
SUCCESS DESPITE PUSHBACK
Victorian non-government school Trinity Grammar is pushing ahead with a permanent mobile phone ban after an initial trial, despite 51 per cent of year 7 to 12 boys being unhappy that they have to put their phones in their lockers.
Headmaster Phil De Young said while the students were “somewhat less affirming*” of the ban, the trial had been a great success.
Teachers and parents overwhelmingly supported the ban and 47 per cent of year 12 boys conceded that the phone ban, being tested over two terms, has improved social interaction among students.
“Improving social interaction was the major reason we introduced the ban,” Mr De Young said.
When introducing the trial, he said many boys spent spare moments playing Fortnite instead of speaking with each other.
After two terms, Mr De Young said parents, teachers and students were asked to complete a non-compulsory survey.
Of the staff completing the survey, 94 per cent believed the absence of phones had helped students to avoid distractions during the day and 86 per cent of parents thought it was a positive move.
One Trinity Grammar student said he thought the ban had made the students “more focused and more on task”.
“It makes them more sociable too. It has helped a lot of people even though they might not notice it,” the student said.
Another said: “It’s a good idea but having them completely banned prevents things like messages from parents”.
Some were less open to the ban: “Children these days are phone addicts and there’s nothing we can do to stop them”.
ADVICE FROM THE EXPERTS
Child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg said banning phones was a sensible mental* health strategy* that lets children focus on learning.
“Some children would get up to 150 notifications a day — quite often some of which (are) from parents,” he said.
He said schools could successfully ban phones if they wanted to.
“Schools like John Edmondson High School (in Horningsea Park, NSW) who have had the ban in place for five years report that there is increased socialisation and less screen time, more sport and healthy interaction — what the hell is wrong with that? Nothing.”
Meriden School (in Strathfield, NSW) Principal Dr Julie Greenhalgh recommended that parents avoid buying smartphones for their daughters.
“If a girl needs a phone to contact her parents, a “dumb” phone is sufficient,” she said.
NO BAN FOR QUEENSLAND
After Victoria announced its school phone ban from 2020, Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace said the decision whether or not to ban devices was up to individual principals.
That’s despite Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan calling for a national ban before he met with the state education ministers to discuss the topic in June.
“I would encourage Queensland to follow suit,” Mr Tehan said before the meeting.
“I know this is under consideration in Queensland. Now Victoria has moved, my hope is we will see other states and territories follow. It would be wonderful if Queensland followed.”
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg has been actively pushing for the bans and said in June that Queensland must follow the other states.
“I would advise the Queensland Education Minister to study the program in place at Lourdes Hill Independent Catholic School in Brisbane (Qld), where a ban has been working very successfully,” he said.
“As well as boosting mental health, there is proof that students interact more, they run around more in breaks, they do better in their learning and focus is improved. What’s not to like?”
The child expert admits that there is an adjustment period for the kids, but when habits are broken it works well.
“The students won’t like the idea, that is to be expected, but they settle down.”
Dr Carr-Gregg has also urged all states to develop a “digital licence” test, similar to the old-fashioned pen licence.
He said the Queensland Government should make the tests free and compulsory.
VIDEO: Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan speaking after Victoria announced the school phone ban in June
Mobile phones are a distraction, threaten discipline in the classroom: Tehan
- confiscated: taken away and not allowed to be used
- immersive: allowing you to get fully involved in something
- affirming: declaring your support of something
- mental: to do with emotions and thinking, rather than physical
- strategy: plan of action
- What does Robert Napoli have to say about the ban?
- What proportions of staff and parents surveyed at Trinity supported the ban?
- What has happened at John Edmondson High School?
- Do any schools in Queensland have phone bans?
- What do pen licences have to do with this story?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. Positives vs negatives
Not everyone feels the same way about banning phones and other devices in schools. Divide a page into a grid with six sections: two columns across and three rows down the page. Write POSITIVES at the top of one column and NEGATIVES at the top of the other. Now write labels down the side of your page so there is a row for each of STUDENTS, TEACHERS and PARENTS.
In the relevant box of your grid, add all the points you can think of that are possible positives about banning devices from schools from the point of view of students. Now fill in the possible negatives about a ban from the point of view of students. Repeat the process from the point of view of teachers and then parents. Compare your completed grid to a classmate’s grid and add any points to your grid you hadn’t thought of yourself, if you think they are relevant. Discuss with your partner how the grid makes you feel about a ban as a student or if you were a teacher or a parent.
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social, Critical and Creative Thinking
Write a paragraph giving your opinion on whether banning devices such as mobile phones from schools is a good idea, based on the information in your grid. When forming your opinion, try to take into account the positives and negatives of a ban from the point of view of all groups: students, teachers and parents.
Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social, Critical and Creative Thinking
After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many connectives as you can find in pink. Discuss if these are being used as conjunctions, or to join ideas and create flow.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you think phones and other devices should be banned at your school?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.