NEWS EX­TRA Stu­dents and teach­ers di­vided over school mo­bile phone bans

Dubbo Photo News - - News Extra - By LY­DIA PEDRANA

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.” „

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