Mobile phones will be banned in South Australian primary schools from 2021 following the release of a new policy by the state’s government.
The move, announced by SA Education Minister, John Gardner, will see South Australia join NSW, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania in banning the use of mobile phones in classrooms.
Under the new policy, access to phone and personal devices while the student is on school grounds would be restricted in primary schools. However, this does not apply to school-sanctioned ‘bring your own devices’ such as laptops and iPads used for learning purposes.
Minister Gardner said the draft policy was developed in close consultation with school principals, principal associations and senior school leaders and sets out “a sensible approach” to managing the use of mobile phones during school hours.
“We understand that families may want their child to have a phone while travelling to and from school so they can contact them outside school hours. This is a non-negotiable aspect of the policy,” Minister Gardner said.
“However, we believe that during school hours it is sensible for primary students to store their personal devices safely so they can focus on learning”.
Minister Gardner said the government recognises the need more flexibility at the secondary level that allows schools to develop their own policies that reflect the needs of their community.
“Some schools actively use apps in phones as part of learning programs. Some teachers get their students to use their phones’ camera function to photograph notes in class so they can stay engaged in their learning more effectively,” he said.
And we note that a rule that is appropriate for a 12-year-old student is not always relevant for an 18-year-old”.
The Federal Government said the South Australian Government has demonstrated “strong leadership” with its announcement.
“Data shows a correlation between the uptake of mobile phones by young people and a downturn in student performance,” Minister Tehan said.
“There is also growing evidence that mobile phones and social media use has led to an increase in anxiety and depression in young people, particularly young women”.
Minister Tehan said that schools where mobile phones have been banned have seen more engaged students and even a return to kids playing at lunchtime.
Finnish educator, author and scholar, Pasi Sahlberg, is all for more play in schools, but is cautious about the phone bans.
“Most of ‘screen time’ takes place outside of school and simply taking the gadgets away from kids in school would not help, especially it is not a good idea for those who suffer from screens the most,” Sahlberg told The Educator.
This issue, he explained, is best handled in close collaboration with children and their parents.
“We need to educate them about the advantages of technology and risks related to heavy use of it. We need to work with parents to set the limits how smartphones, games and media is used at homes and in schools”.