NSW inquiry considers banning mobile phones in schools

The NSW government will conduct Australia’s first review of smartphone use in schools that could see the devices banned.

Education Minister Rob Stokes this week asked child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg to conduct the review of phone use by children in kindergarten to Year 12. It follows concerns about safety and cyber-bullying, highlighted by the death of 14-year-old schoolgirl Dolly Everett.

The review will consider restrictions on social media based on age, student online safety and bullying and whether “old-style” mobile phones without cameras or access to internet could offer an alternative.

Parents, teachers and students have weighed into the debate in recent times. Some, such as Dr Pasi Sahlberg, believe phones can cause physical damage to children, “distracting students from reading, school-related work, physical activity, and high-quality sleep”.

There has been a mixture of responses to this week’s announcement.

Laura Davidson, 18, of Baulkham Hills, believes it may have a positive outcome for her school work but could also have negative effects.

“In a way it will help teenagers focus more and not be distracted by social media, but also, some use their phones for music to keep focussed,” she said.

Konrad Haddadi, 18, of Kellyville, dosen’t think mobile phones should be banned in schools, as they have a more important use than just a distraction.

“Mobile phones are used as a communication device for children and parents,” he said.

“They should’nt be banned as the benefits phones have in emergency situations far outweigh the detriments that they have an school productivity.”

Ellie Hoogervorst, 16, of Baulkham Hills, thinks a total ban is unrealistic but overall could have a positive impact on her education.

“Its just unrealistic to think it will happen,” she said.

“I do think that if we got rid of phones at schools we would definitely get less distracted and could get more work done.”

It is the first time a review of this size has been conducted by a state or federal government in Australia. It comes a day after France introduced a bill to “detox” children from phones at school and the UK’s Culture Secretary Matt Hancock called for a nationwide ban.