Mobile phones in schools

From Term 1, 2020 there will be a new mobile phone policy for all government schools. The policy means phones brought to school must be switched off and stored securely during the school day.

The aim of this policy is to provide:

  • a safe environment to learn without inappropriate mobile phone use (including cyberbullying) or distractions
  • greater opportunities for social interaction and physical activity during recess and lunchtimes.

The use of technology is important, but the risks and benefits from its use need to be managed. A summary of research articles is available below.

Emergencies

In emergencies, parents can contact their children through the school office.

Exceptions

A small number of exceptions will be made. These exceptions will only be available if a mobile phone is essential for a student in:

  • managing a health condition
  • classroom learning.

Teachers can grant a classroom-based learning exception. Other exceptions are managed by the school principal. Your child’s school can give you more information about exceptions.

Family support

Talking about mobile phone use as a family is a great way to support safe and responsible technology use.

The eSafety Commissioner has many resources for families:

The Department of Education and Training’s also has a Bully Stoppers webpage.

Research

Mobile phone use in the classroom

How smart is it to allow students to use mobile phones at school?  reports on a study of mobile phone bans in England. The bans led to:

  • Improvements in student achievement
  • An increase in test scores for students aged 16 by an amount equal to adding five extra days to the school year.

Lower-achieving students made the greatest improvements.

Mobile phones in the classroom: A helpful or harmful hindrance? outlines recent research. Phones can be a distraction and their removal from the classroom can see an improvement in student performance. Students who did not use smartphones in a lecture wrote 62 per cent more information in their notes and recalled more information than peers who were using their phones.

'Schools need to react quickly': Education expert urges smartphone ban discusses smartphone use in schools. According to Finnish expert Dr Sahlberg, smartphone distraction is one of the main reasons why Australia is sliding down Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings.

Cognition and smartphone use

Smartphones and Cognition: A Review of Research Exploring the Links between Mobile Technology Habits and Cognitive Functioning is a review of academic research on mobile phones. The review looked for evidence of effects of smartphone use on cognition. It reported that habitual smartphone use may have a negative and lasting impact on users’ ability to :

  • think,
  • remember
  • pay attention
  • regulate emotion.

The Mere Presence of Your Smartphone Reduces Brain Power, Study Shows
The research finds it doesn’t matter whether a smartphone is on or off or lying face up or face down on a desk - having a smartphone within sight or within easy reach reduces a person’s ability to focus and perform tasks, because part of their brain is actively working to not pick up or use the phone.

Smartphones use by children and young people and wellbeing

Increases in Depressive Symptoms, Suicide-Related Outcomes, and Suicide Rates Among U.S. Adolescents After 2010 and Links to Increased New Media Screen Tim shows that, on average, teenagers are spending six hours per day:

  • using the internet
  • texting friends
  • using social media.

The surveys explores the links between the use of smartphones, particularity social media, and increases in depression, anxiety and reduced happiness.

Dopamine, Smartphones & You: A battle for your time, a Harvard University blog discusses our desire to connect and seek validation through technologies and how this can lead to anxiety, poor sleep and unsuccessful social interactions. The blog explains how mobile phone content can influence our ‘dopamine pathways’ and lead to a battle for more and more of the users’ time.