NSW Minister for Education Rob Stokes has ordered a review into phone use in schools. He said the review would look at the risks and rewards of social media. The review will ultimately decide whether to ban mobile phones in NSW schools.
Parents and teachers have similar concerns about cyberbullying and safety, as well as technology distracting from schoolwork. But do the benefits of having phones in classrooms (such as contact with parents, access to mental health text lines, and learning opportunities) outweigh the risks?
We asked five experts if schools should ban mobile phones in classrooms.
Four out of five experts said no. Their responses below:
Danielle Einstein, psychologist YES
“First, mobile phones are too easily used at the expense of face-to-face communication. Teenagers can message, avoiding a more challenging conversation. Second, smartphone apps and messages prompt dopamine release, creating addiction. Third, the mere presence of one’s phone consumes attention even when it’s not being checked. It’s been shown we have reduced working memory capacity and fluid intelligence when our phone is upside down, silent on our desk compared to when it is in another room.
Finally, the introduction of smartphones has led to a decline in people’s ability to cope with uncertainty. Research shows being uncomfortable with uncertainty is associated with students feeling distracted and tense during NAPLAN and other tests. The more uncomfortable young people are with uncertainty, the higher the number of co-occurring psychological problems they report experiencing. Smartphone use is associated with the current epidemic of anxiety and depression.”
Matthew Kearney, Teacher Educator NO
“Firstly, regardless of any ban, school students will continue to learn with their own phones off-campus, later in life in their tertiary education, and in their professional and workplace learning. Secondly, if school students want to investigate, collect data, receive personalised and immediate feedback, record media, create, compose, or communicate with peers, in and beyond the classroom, then using mobile apps is ideal.
Also, if they want to learn at a place, time and pace of their choosing, for example on excursions, or working on projects with friends in more informal spaces like home, on a train or in Facebook groups, then mobile devices are needed.”
Joanne Orlando, Technology and Learning NO
“We should not ban mobile phones in schools because it’s important to educate children to live well in the era in which they are growing up. A good education for students today is knowing how to use technology to learn, communicate, and work with ideas. There is significant research (including my own) that shows selective, quality and empowering uses of technology provides new learning opportunities and the ability for students to develop skills they will need for future careers. The ability to copy work off the blackboard into an exercise book is not a skill today’s employers are looking for.
Banning students from using smartphones is a 1950’s response to a 2018 state-of-play. Mobile phone use is a complex social activity and taking phones away will likely lead to underground and hidden use by teens. This will exacerbate issues (such as cyberbullying) this call to ban phones is trying to address.”
Damian Maher, ICT educator NO
“Mobile phones serve many important functions. Digital literacy is a critical aspect of young people’s schooling and research shows mobile phones can play a role in supporting such learning. It’s important students learn with these devices so they can effectively participate in the workforce.
The phones provide a link between students and their parents, which has an important role to play in ensuring their safety. Evidence indicates parents want this type of access. Teachers have an important role to teach students to be safe online.
In relation to health, research shows medical apps are important to support the health of young people, such as managing diabetes, and apps need to be accessed during schools hours. Rather than suggesting bans, we should be discussing ways to support young people to use their phones.”
Susan Sawyer, Paediatrician NO
“Mobile phones are now ubiquitous for secondary school students. Beyond the 3Rs, an important aspect of learning for secondary school students is about safely negotiating online environments. This means all schools need to develop policies around the use of mobile phones during school hours. Given the dynamic nature of the mobile world, regularly engaging students and parents in reviewing and revising these policies is an important part of everyone’s learning.
A particular benefit of mobile phones is they can provide access to therapeutic interventions for distressed young people while they are at school. Telephone support lines have long provided crisis support but are more commonly used outside school hours. The emergence of crisis text lines means adolescents can access text messaging support in real time, an approach that many find more accessible than telephone support, let alone face-to-face support, even with trained professionals at schools.”