Banning smartphones from classrooms is “too extreme”, according to experts, who say a blanket ban approach takes education a step back.
Last week, Newington College, based in Sydney’s inner west, joined a growing number of schools across Australia banning mobile phones.
The move comes after the NSW government in June called for a review into Australia’s smartphone use in schools that could see devices banned.
In July, the French government also banned students under the age of 15 from using smartphones during school hours.
Dr Rose Cantali, child psychologist and NSW Parents’ Council president, said banning phones from classrooms was “too extreme”.
“We can’t lose sight of the fact that with technology we have to move forward … you’re never going to be able to ban things completely – that’s just rubbish,” Dr Cantali told The New Daily.
“In a school setting there does have to be some boundaries and restrictions on how to use smartphones.
“But in some classrooms some students may need their smartphones as it depends on the situation and we’re moving in the direction where we’re using apps for educational purposes.”
‘Taking a step back’
Dr Joanne Orlando, an expert on children and technology at the University of Western Sydney, said a blanket ban approach needed flexibility or schools would be at risk of taking a step back in education.
“For any rule that’s locked down it can very quickly stop working, so there needs to be a flexible approach to the kind of strategies that we’re using,” Dr Orlando told The New Daily.
“If distractibility is the issue, then schools need to be certain that smartphone use is the issue and not other elements, such as the content being delivered in the classroom or the time of day.
“There shouldn’t be one policy per state. Every school and classroom is different, so one rule for everyone in every circumstance isn’t going to work.”
Laws in each state
The New Daily requested comment from each state’s Department of Education for its policy on smartphone use in schools.
A spokesman from the NSW Department of Education said the government was currently reviewing the risks and benefits associated with the use of mobile digital devices, primarily smartphones.
“While this review is under way, it’s not appropriate for the department to provide comment,” the spokesman told The New Daily.
A spokesman from the Victorian Department of Education said most schools had policies in place to prohibit mobile phone use in classes.
Departments across other states told The New Daily they allows schools to determine how they adopt their smartphone policy.
‘Better for the classroom’
Darren Stevenson, former head of school and chief executive for Extend, a before and after school care program that works with thousands of schools across Australia, said phones should be banned in the classroom and during school hours.
“There’s emerging research that shows a very strong link between anxiety and depression in children and the amount of time they’re spending on screens and mobile phones,” Mr Stevenson told The New Daily.
“It’s an enormous distraction to genuine learning in the classroom and actively takes away from those important opportunities that children need to engage with others and develop real-world social skills.”
Dr Pasi Sahlberg, education professor at UNSW Sydney, said smartphone distractions in classrooms were causing students to slide down in rankings in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
“I believe that this problematic use behind smartphones is worsening learning outcomes for NAPLAN and PISA as well,” Dr Sahlberg told The New Daily.
“It’s absolutely critical for parents and their children and teachers to understand the kind of magnitude of this problem and the challenge that we have with technology.”