Mobile phones are set to be banned in New South Wales’ public primary schools during school hours in 2019 as the NSW government seeks to stamp out online bullying and reduce distractions for students.
High schools will also have the choice to opt in to a ban or more tightly restrict mobile phone use, subject to the discretion of the individual schools in consultation with their communities.
The new rules are in response to an expert review on the non-educational use of mobile phones in NSW schools, led by renowned child psychologist Dr. Michael Carr-Gregg.
They were commissioned by the NSW government in June after an examination of close to 14,000 survey responses and 80 written submissions.
The review concluded there has been an increase in unnecessary distraction, online bullying, inappropriate sharing of explicit images between students, and predatory behaviour from strangers.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the new measures will give clear boundaries in primary schools so that “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 for schools, teachers, parents, and students,” Berejiklian said, according to a release.
“We want to ensure mobile phones and other smart devices complement students’ learning and are handled at school in an age-appropriate way.”
Education Minister Rob Stokes said that the expert review did not recommend a ban on mobile devices in high schools but did present multiple approaches the high schools could take based on their circumstances.
“These changes are about keeping our schools safe and protecting the welfare of our students when they’re in our care,” Stokes said in a release.
A spokeswoman for Stokes said the review would be made public on Dec. 17, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Carr-Gregg previously flagged the possibility of only allowing older styles of mobile phones which don’t have a camera or internet access as another solution.
He said there was an “astonishing” number of young people on apps like Snapchat and Instagram, raising questions about whether those platforms were age-appropriate for younger students.
David Harris, shadow assistant minister for education, said the Opposition supported the new measures.
“I’m a former primary school principal and I’ve been chatting to teachers and parents about this issue,” he told the ABC.
“The use of mobile phones in schools has become disruptive. We certainly support a ban but the only proviso would be that some schools have mobile phones as part of their ‘bring your own device’ programs, and in a structured way, in specified lessons, we’d support that continued use of mobile phones in classrooms.
“We would also encourage high schools to look at this very, very carefully.”
In November, several schools in NSW began banning mobile phones, including Newington College, Shore School, Tara Anglican School for Girls, and Deniliquin High School, a public school in the Riverina region.
In September, France began banning students from mobile phone use in both primary and secondary schools, including from using them in between lessons, at recess, and at lunch time.
At the time, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said on French news channel BFMTV, “We know today that there is a phenomenon of screen addiction, the phenomenon of bad mobile phone use.
“Our main role is to protect children and adolescents. It is a fundamental role of education, and this law allows it.”
France’s mobile ban decision has sparked discussions in Britain and Ireland as to whether they should do the same.
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