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School phone bans seem obvious but could make it harder for kids to use tech in healthy ways


School phone prohibited may seem like the answer to young people’s use of technology.

But if we ban phones and bury this problem under the sand, when and how will our children learn to have a healthy relationship with technology in a world that is becoming more technology-oriented by the day?

Existing bans in Australian schools

The ban on mobile phones in schools has had a domino effect across Australia. Most jurisdictions now have full or partial bans.

Victoria has banned mobile phones in both primary and secondary schools since term 1 of 2020. Western Australia And Tasmania have a similar “out and away all day” policy.

South Australia is transition to ban all public secondary schools by term 3 of 2023. New South Wales will ban them from public secondary schools in October, as part of a flagship election policy of the incoming Minns government.

Earlier this month, Queensland said it was also looking into the matter.

Talk about a national approach

While schools are largely a state government responsibility, rhetoric about the phone ban has gained popularity at the federal level. Last week, federal education minister Jason Clare called for a national approach and said he will meet with state and territorial counterparts in mid-2023 to discuss and encourage it.

I think it’s time for a nationwide approach to prohibiting or limiting the use of mobile phones by students in schools.

If a national ban were enacted, it would likely mean that students in all government-owned primary and secondary schools across the country would restrict or completely ban cell phone use in school.

Include countries with a similar national approach China, France And Sweden. Many countries, including the United Kingdom And United Statesallows individual schools to create their own policies according to their individual needs.

Read more: Another school has banned cell phones, but study shows a ban won’t stop bullying or improve student grades

Students should be involved in this

Clare says he will prioritize a collaborative approach to phones and

not decide for yourself; talk to parents, talk to principals, talk to teachers about what’s the best approach.

An obvious omission in this lineup is students. Such as phone ban investigations foreign showchildren’s views are of great importance as they are the recipients and beneficiaries of the policy.

Scenes of school phone bans that got out of hand are everywhere on TikTok, featuring footage of Australian students breaking open bags often bought by schools to store phones. This footage is very different from the pro-ban scenes filmed for the night news.

It’s easy to see why bans are popular

Banning mobile phones is popular with some parentsbecause it seems like the obvious answer to young people’s problematic technology use.

But this popularity is partly supported by uncertainty about how to control children’s use of technology.

Parents often resort to confiscating phones at home when they don’t know how to control children’s use of technology. School bans are large-scale confiscations.

They started as a means of stopping bullying and keeping kids focused in the classroom – important issues that are proving difficult to solve. But they run the risk of sweeping important issues under the rug. This can make children’s lives more difficult in the long run.

Read more: ‘Screen time’ for kids is an outdated concept, so let’s ditch it and focus on quality instead

What do adults do?

Many young people I interview as part of new research for the eSafety commissioner agrees that their technology use is not monitored, meaning they feel they spend too much time using their phone in unproductive and habitual ways. This worries them.

However, instead of pointing the finger at the kids, let’s take a look at what’s happening with the adult population and mobile phones.

Our all-consuming approach to phones has become so concerning that Problematic use of mobile phones (PMPU) has been identified by the Australian Psychological Society as one of the greatest behavioral addiction challenges of the 21st century.

Adults use their phones all the time, especially in places where they shouldn’t be. A 2018 study from education company Udemy showed that millennials (the parents of many school-age children) checked their phones for two hours a day for personal activity during the workday. The 40-hour work week has become a 30-hour work week, plus ten hours on your phone.

As adults, we find it very difficult to deal with cell phone bans. There are now hundreds of hidden cell phone detecting cameras out there to catch us because we can’t rely on not using our phones while driving.

Collected these cameras about A$66 million fines last year. This was an increase of $4 million over the previous year. It shows how real problems with adult phone use have not been solved with bans or arbitrary punishment.

As adults, we find it very difficult to deal with cell phone bans.

Where is the proof that this will work?

The scarce research available shows no change in bullying or involvement in class phone ban after school have been introduced.

A 2022 Spanish study made an effort to say that bans had led to better academic results. But upon careful reading of the study, students were allowed to use phones in schools as a teaching tool for educational purposes. The researchers argue that this may have been the reason for the higher scores.

Policy has to be made using evidence, and right now we don’t really have any.

In the meantime, bans make it likely that we will miss out on giving our children the skills they need to learn, work and live in a world saturated with technology. This includes their home and bedroom where they do their homework after school.

Meanwhile, we need a broader conversation about how all of us — kids and adults alike — can use phones in a healthy way.

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