This article has set off a major talking point in secondary schools across NSW and Australia. Obviously there are strongly held opinions on all sides. I look forward to continuing to follow this debate and to see how educators, parents and the widers community responds and evolves.
Head Teacher Teaching and Learning
Marsden High School
‘Warped views on reality’: private schools are banning mobile phones
By Jordan Baker
Newington College has joined a growing number of schools banning mobile phones, saying they lead to lower concentration, higher stress and “warped views on reality”.
The inner west school told students to keep phones in their lockers from the beginning of term four after an attempt to encourage boys to use them responsibly failed.
But bans remain divisive, with both the NSW P&C and teachers union telling a NSW government review into smartphones in schools that they were useful for learning and educators should help students use them constructively.
Newington joins schools such as Shore, Tara Anglican School for Girls and Deniliquin High School, a public school in the Riverina, in banning phones.
Until mid-October, Newington’s policy was that students could carry their phones on them but that they should be neither seen nor heard during the school day. Some students made “good and autonomous decisions … many have had difficulty in this regard,” the notification to parents read.
So from term four, phones were to be left in lockers, and messages could be checked briefly at lunch and recess. Parents were told to contact their sons through the college’s reception office.
The decision was based on research showing that when people carried phones with them, they could display lower concentration due to constant interruptions, increased fear of missing out, reduced memory, warped views on reality and increased stress.
“The college believes that students will gain greater academic and social benefits from not having their mobile phone on their person during the school day,” the notice said. The policy would be reviewed during the term, and might be extended to smart watches.
Tara has required devices to be left at home or in lockers since the beginning of the year. “We have been very pleased with the increased physical activities and the broadening of the lunchtime clubs the girls are participating in,” said principal Susan Middlebrook.
“The best part is the delight in the increase in morning tea and lunchtime conversation. Everyone is engaged with each other and not a screen now.”
Deniliquin High’s ban began in July. “It was fabulously noisy in the yard today as student were busy talking to each other at recess and lunch instead of playing on their phone,” the school Tweeted on the first day of the ban.
Shore School has banned mobile phone use since 2005. “[We] feel that there is too much expectation placed upon mobile devices in the context of learning, said headmaster Tim Wright. “They are useful tools but terrible masters, often leading to short circuits in thinking and research.”
NSW government has commissioned a review of the non-educational use of mobile devices in NSW schools. Submissions have closed, and the head of the review, child psychologist Michael Carr Gregg, will report early next year.
The recommendations will be a guide for schools; they will not be compulsory. Schools will continue to set their own rules, and many public schools have a Bring Your Own Device policy that lets students use them for lessons.
In its submission to the review, the NSW Teachers Federation described smart phones as the next iteration of personal computers, and said they were needed to fill the gap because public schools were not given money to supply computers.
The NSW P&C said educating parents and students about the safe and responsible use of mobile devices would be more effective than a ban.
Matt Bower, an expert in digital technology in the classroom at Macquarie University, agreed schools should work with students to develop healthy digital habits. “A more balanced approach may be to advise phones are switched off in classes, if not being used for educational purposes.”
This article was written by:
Jordan Baker – Education Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.