Should mobile phones be banned from schools?

Nomophobia. You may not have heard this word before but we can pretty much guarantee that most of us know its relevance. The Cambridge Dictionary’s word of the year describes, “the sense of fear or worry that arises when someone is without their mobile phone or unable to use it.”

Smartphone reliance

A flat battery can be inconvenient at times, but a lost phone can be almost panic-inducing when you realise half your life is in that smartphone that is now no longer in your possession. But our smartphone reliance (or is that addiction?) is made perfectly clear by the number of kids who are seemingly glued to their phones throughout the day.

New South Wales schools ban mobile phone use

In 2019, New South Wales primary school students will not be allowed to bring mobile phones to school. The move by State Government is the result of a review into phone use in classrooms and is hoped to reduce the prevalence of cyber bullying, sexual images, and distractions.

High schools will be offered the choice to opt in to the ban. There is provision for special requests from parents where a phone can be accessed before or after school.

Psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg who led the review reportedly told 2GB, “It’s all really about kids focusing on lessons, better socialising, reducing social media use and reducing online bullying and online image abuse.”

Why does a primary school child need a mobile phone?

The reasons why a parent wants their child to have a mobile phone are varied and down to personal choice. Being able to contact a child easily if they are taking public transport to or from school, travelling to sports or activities, or if there is a civil emergency, is reassuring for parents, and vice-versa. But the reality is that such a need can usually be met by a phone with no camera or internet access.

Often people who grew up without today’s amazing technology will argue that we survived our school days without the need to be in constant contact with our parents. But the world is a much different place to the one that Generation X and Baby Boomers grew up in.

Extending the smartphone ban to high schools

Dr Carr-Gregg also suggested banning phones for students beyond primary school (up to and including year 10) and strictly limiting access for years 11 and 12 but this has not been made compulsory for high schools. The Education Minister said that sometimes mobile phones are useful in high school when used to augment learning activities but can also be dangerous and a distraction.

Smartphones are definitely a distraction from studies for some students and inappropiate or obsessive use can be harmful. Kids need to have clear guidelines of what is and isn’t appropriate. But just because the way that this generation communicates is different to what is considered to be the norm, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s wrong – as long as it’s safe. It must also be remembered that smartphones are widely used by some high schools as a tool for school notices, timetables, contact for sports teams. Some schools even have their own apps for students and parents to access academic results, activity calendars, absence reporting and more.

Should NZ consider a similar mobile phone ban for kids? Join the discussion in the comments below.

This article was written by Julie Scanlon, Editor for Kidspot NZ.

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