NEWS EXTRA Students and teachers divided over school mobile phone bans
LOCAL students have mixed emotions about the increased push to ban mobile phones in schools.
A sample of teenagers and young adults surveyed by Headspace Dubbo revealed that while young people see the logic behind prohibiting devices in the classroom for concentration and distraction purposes, they don’t believe it is practical.
The survey follows action by the NSW Government which is in the process of banning mobile phones in all NSW public primary schools.
Although the management of digital devices in public secondary schools has been left to each school’s discretion, many in Dubbo, as well as prestigious private schools in Sydney, have decided to implement restrictions.
One respondent to the Headspace survey, Charlize, 14, described banning phones from the classroom as “a bit extreme” given many people of her generation had grown up with devices as a norm.
“Instead of banning phones I reckon they should embrace the technology because it has so many benefits that adults never got to experience,” she said.
“Adults always say to me, ‘But I didn’t have a phone when I was at school and I got along fine so why can’t you?’ But teenagers don’t know any different because most of us, by the time we were 12, got a phone and you can’t just take it away from us just like that because you were fine without phones. You should embrace the technology as a positive thing.”
On the other hand, Charlize admits she has seen the positive results of a phone ban during break times at her own school.
“On the good side, since my school has put a stronger policy towards the phones at both lunch and recess, I’ve noticed everyone at school interacts with each other more. You’re not walking around seeing people just looking at screens with only minimum conversation, which is good to see.”
James, 23, also sees both sides of the coin.
“Phones are a distraction and while students are using them, they aren’t paying attention,” he said.
“But at the same time phones are a part of everyday life, and part of preparing students for the real world is teaching them the self-control of not checking their phones every five minutes – even though they have it with them – so banning phones full stop avoids teaching young people that valuable life skill.”
One of the leading reasons behind the NSW Government’s decision to implement blanket bans in public primary schools was to protect students from mounting cyberbullying.
But according to young people, whom the ban directly affects, restricting phones during school hours isn’t necessarily a clean-cut cure.
14-year-old Tjyarna doesn’t believe outlawing phones at school will deter online bullies.
“It (cyberbullying) is not like your typical bullying where it stays in the school gates,” she said.
“Phone ban or not, cyberbullying is still going to happen.”
Meanwhile, Jade, 18, believes there needs to be more action on those participating in the harmful behaviour, rather than punishing those who may be falling victim to abusive content.
“It is clearly an attempt at an invasive way to minimise the harmful effects of social media... the intentions of this development are sound,” she said.
“What must be remembered and continuously considered is that the focus must remain on the individuals who choose to purposefully diminish others online.
“The focus cannot shift to those distracted by their phones, as they may well be distracted by the bullying contained within.”
But of course, it’s not the students who make the rules and principals from local schools who have jumped on board the phone ban bandwagon are convinced it’s a positive step forward.
Dubbo Christian School (DCS) introduced a mobile phone ban before Principal Warren Melville stepped into his role in 2003 and he has no plans to change the policy.
“I understand the tension between the potential benefits of technology and devices, including in the educational context, but in applying the BOOT test (Better Off Overall Test), I have come to the conclusion that these benefits are outweighed by the distraction to learning, negative social impact and potential for malicious use in the school context,” Mr Melville told Dubbo Photo News.
“Many families I enrol tell me it is one of the reasons they choose DCS... I believe it makes a huge positive difference to the social interactions and fabric of a school community.”
St Mary’s Primary School also has a no-phone rule in place and principal Luke Wilson believes it’s effective.
“Students who need to bring in a phone know that phones are dropped into the office at the start of the school day and picked up on their way home,” Mr Wilson said.
“This rule has been established for a number of years at our school, and while an increasing number of our 11 and 12-year-olds seem to have phones, we haven’t had any negative feedback from our parent community.”
Although not subject to the state government ban, this term St John’s College decided to restrict the use of phones at school.
Principal Kerry Morris told Dubbo Photo News that it’s a “not on your person” policy and that it is “working great.”