Two decades ago, mobile phones in schools were pretty much unheard of. When mobile phones started to grow in popularity, some lucky students managed to convince their parents to buy one for them – but the majority of schools banned them from campus.
Fast forward to today and you’d find it hard to find a school-age child not in possession of a phone. Even students as young as 10 years old have their own phone, but whether or not they should be allowed in schools has caused some debate.
Some parents believe their kids need phones at school so they can communicate with them when nexessary. That’s why many schools – particularly in the US – allow kids to bring mobile phones to school but don’t allow students to use the devices during class.
Some also believe that it’s better to teach students how to use technology responsibly, and that smartphones can be a handy educational tool with resources for students on hand.
Western Australia has been the latest to implement a policy that bans mobile phone use in schools, which will take effect next year, over concerns that the devices are a major distraction and a main cause of cyberbullying in schools.
My child doesn’t have a mobile phone. If she did, I would agree with this ban. She goes to school to concentrate & learn. Mobiles are distracting.
— Cassandra Sharkey (@sun_reyes) October 30, 2019
Under this new “off and away policy”, students are also required to have their smartwatches set to airplane mode, and the ban also restricts the use of earbuds, tablets and headphones.
According to The Conversation, “Students will have to switch off their phones and store them in lockers from the start of the school day until the final bell. In case of an emergency, parents or guardians can reach their child by calling the school.”
Minister for Education, James Merlino, said in a statement, “This will remove a major distraction from our classrooms, so that teachers can teach, and students can learn in a more focused, positive and supported environment.”
“Half of all young people have experienced cyberbullying. By banning mobiles we can stop it at the school gate.”
According to the statement, “The only exceptions to the ban will be where students use phones to monitor health conditions, or where teachers instruct students to bring their phone for a particular classroom activity.”
Principal of McKinnon Secondary School, Pitsa Binnion, said, “Our students are more focused learners in the classroom without this distraction and we have observed improved social connections, relationships and interactions in the school during lunchtime.”
A survey by Monash University in Australia showed that the majority of citizens are in support of banning mobile phones in schools.
According to the study, 82.6 percent of respondents who strongly agree that there should be more use of digital technologies in Australian schools also indicate that they agree/strongly agree that students should not be allowed to make use of phones in the classroom.
Even students are in favour of the ban. While they may resist at first, some have found that over time, it is actually a good thing for them.
— WA Education News (@WA_Edu_News) October 30, 2019
While cyberbullying can still occur outside of school and students can be distracted in other ways (possibly by other students), the policy implemented in Western Australia is a proactive measure that reflects similar policies in other countries.
In the UK, there is no official ban on mobile phones in schools, but most schools have taken it upon themselves to restrict usage in the classroom. Some allow students to use them during break times.
They have seen positive results such as students interacting more and being more attentive in class.
In China, where mobile phone use is extremely popular, the government issued a ban last year that prevents primary and middle school students from using them in schools, mainly due to health concerns.
According to AsiaOne, “The regulation, adopted by the provincial legislature last month, calls on schools to keep such devices for the students during schooltime if they bring them to school, with the aim of curbing the incidence of myopia.
“Parents should also control the time their children spend on electronic devices, teach them to keep a proper distance from books and screens, and ensure a correct reading position and sufficient lighting, it says.”