Mobile phones will be banned in NSW primary schools, and high schools will get more power to take smart devices off students.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Thursday announced the measures would come into affect from next year, in a plan to cut class distractions and online bullying.
Phones will be banned during school hours in public primary schools, while high schools will be able to choose to opt into a ban.
The move – an Australian first – is in response to a review by child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg, commissioned by the education department in June.
It found growing cases of online bullying, inappropriate sharing of explicit images between students, predatory behaviour from strangers and unnecessary distraction for students.
The education department will provide guidelines to schools about exactly how the ban will work.
Parents can request to have children’s phones kept somewhere to be accessed before or after school.
“Of course if there are exceptions that can be negotiated on an individual basis,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters on Thursday.
“But I think it’s a very strong and important message to send.”
In a statement, Ms Berejiklian said the move would “ensure technology remains an enabler, not a detractor”.
“Distraction and bullying have always been issues for schools to deal with but mobile phones present a new challenge,” she said.
“We want to ensure mobile phones and other smart devices complement students’ learning, and are handled at school in an age-appropriate way.”
Mobile devices will be banned during school hours in NSW public primary schools while high schools will have the choice to introduce tighter measures.
— Gladys Berejiklian (@GladysB) December 13, 2018
Education Minister Rob Stokes said the government would work with high schools to help manage the risks.
Dr Carr-Gregg’s review received almost 14,000 survey responses and 80 written submissions.
“I’d like to particularly thank the many thousands of young people and their families who took the time and effort to make submissions, as well as the many experts in mental health, technology and cyber-safety who contributed to this report,” Dr Carr-Gregg said.
The review examined the impact of devices in schools on students of different ages, as well as their potential benefits.
The government will consider its other recommendations.
The NSW mobile phone ban in schools would be the first move of the kind in the country.
Former Victorian opposition leader Matthew Guy in February proposed to ban mobile phones in classrooms for all students.
He said the policy would be limited to class time.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews responded saying the decision should be left up to individual schools.
In September, the French government banned mobile phones during school hours for students under the age of 15.