mobile ban | Banning school children from using phones will make it harder for them to learn the technology
File Photo SYDNEY: Bans on phone use in school have been linked to children becoming comfortable with technology use. But if we ban phones, it’s hard to know when and how our kids learn to have a healthy relationship with technology, which is becoming more tech-centric by the day? Banning mobile phones in school has had an effect across Australia. Most states now have full or partial restrictions. Largely the responsibility of the state government, Victoria has banned mobile phones in primary and secondary schools since the first term of 2020. South Australia is moving towards a ban in all public high schools by term three by 2023. New South Wales will introduce a ban in public high schools in October as part of a key election policy of the incoming Minnes government. Earlier this month, Queensland said it was also looking into the issue. While schools are largely the responsibility of state government, the phone ban discussion has gained popularity at the federal level. Last week federal Education Minister Jason Clare called for a national approach, saying he would meet with state and territory counterparts to discuss and encourage it in mid-2023. Will not decide on their own If a national ban is imposed, it would mean that students in all government primary and high schools across the country would be banned or outright banned from using mobile phones at school Will go Countries with a similar national approach include China, France and Sweden. Many countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, allow private schools to set their own policies according to their needs. Claire says she would prefer a collaborative approach to the phone and not make decisions on her own, talking to parents, talking to the principal, talking to teachers about what’s the best approach. The names of the students are missing from this queue, while they are going to be affected the most by this decision. As studies of phone bans overseas show, children’s views matter enormously. Banning mobile phones is fine according to some parents, as it seems to them to be the obvious solution to the misuse of technology by school children. But parents advocate for a ban on mobile phone use in schools because of the lack of measures on how to control children’s technology use. File Photo Can make children’s life difficult Parents often confiscate children’s phones at home when they do not know how to control children’s use of technology. School bans are a way of confiscating children’s phones on a large scale. The idea of banning phones in schools started as a means of preventing bullying and getting kids to concentrate on their studies, but has now morphed into another significant risk. This can make life difficult for the children going forward. Many children I interview as part of new research for the E-Safety Commissioner agree that their technology use is not controlled, meaning they feel they are using their phones in unproductive and habitual ways. spend a lot of time using it. This worries them. Identified as one of the challenges however, rather than blaming children, let’s consider what is happening with the adult population and mobile phones. Our all-consumer approach to phones has become so worrying that problematic mobile phone use (PMPU) has been identified by the Australian Psychological Society as one of the biggest behavioral addiction challenges of the 21st century. Adults use their phones all the time, especially in places they shouldn’t. A 2018 study by education company Udemy showed that millennials (many parents of school-aged children) checked their phones two hours a day for personal activities during the workday. The 40-hour week has turned into a 30-hour work week, plus ten hours spent on your phone. As adults, we find it very difficult to cope with the ban on mobile phones. There are now hundreds of hidden mobile phone detection cameras out there to catch us because we can’t be trusted not to use our phones while driving. These cameras collected around 66 million Australian dollars in fines last year. Also read The need to be able to work and live with technology This was an increase of USD 4 million over the previous year. This shows how bans or arbitrary punishments are not working to reduce phone use among adults. What little research is available after banning phones in school shows that it has made no difference to children’s bullying or classroom engagement. A 2022 Spanish study attempted to suggest that restrictions led to better educational outcomes. But in a careful reading of the study, students were allowed to use the phone in schools as a learning tool for educational purposes. Researchers say this could be the reason for the rise in scores. Policies need to be made using evidence, and we don’t really have any evidence right now. Meanwhile, restrictions create the possibility that we will leave our children without the skills they need to be able to learn, work and live in a world full of technology. This includes his home and bedroom where he does his homework after school. In the meantime, we need a wider conversation about how all of us – kids and adults – can use phones in healthier ways.