11 September 2023

ACT set to join other states in restricting mobile phone use in schools

| Ian Bushnell
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Mobile phones in ACT schools have become commonplace, but the government is moving to restrict their use. Photo: File.

The days of students being able to use their mobile phones at school without restriction are numbered with the ACT Government considering outright bans or limits on their access.

Four policy options are on the table to deal with what has become a fraught issue across schools generally and will be put out for public consultation.

A ban on mobile phones from the first to the last bell would mean students would not be able to access their personal communication devices for the entire school day, and they would need to store their devices in their bag or locker.

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A lesser option would be for them to have to put their devices away during class time, but they would be able to access them at other times during the school day, including lunchtime and other breaks.

The other two options would combine these, depending on whether students were in primary school, high school or college.

The first would mean only students from Kindergarten to Year 6 would be banned from using their devices for the whole school day, but high school and college students would be subject to ‘put it away’ restrictions.

In the second option, the ban would cover students from years K-10, with college students having to put theirs away during classes.

Minister for Education Yvette Berry said feedback was being sought to ensure any policy changes met the needs and expectations of the community, parents and carers, and stakeholders.

“As the use of mobile phones and other smart devices by students has become increasingly common in ACT public schools, questions about how they can best be used have also increased,” Ms Berry said.

Parents and carers expected all ACT public schools to have a consistent policy for student mobile phone use in schools, with flexibility to meet the differing needs of students at specific stages of their individual development and schooling level.

“The review of the policy will need to appropriately balance the challenges and opportunities presented by this technology,” Ms Berry said.

The policy would also consider what exemptions were required, school management guidelines and additional factors.

A survey on the YourSay website will include questions about the range of exemptions that will be required, such as for students who monitor or manage medical exemptions, and on preferred management guidelines, including confiscation and informing parents or carers.

The increasing concern about the devices’ potential for distraction and negative social behaviour has prompted other jurisdictions to act.

Victoria banned mobile phones in primary and secondary schools in 2020, and Western Australia and Tasmania have similar “off and away all day” policies.

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In July, Queensland brought in a ban in both primary and high schools, while South Australia moved to a ban in all public high schools at the start of Term 3 in July.

NSW will ban them in public high school schools in October as part of a Labor election policy.

To take the survey and provide feedback, visit the YourSay website. Feedback will close at 11:59 pm on 8 October 2023.

Original Article published by Ian Bushnell on Riotact.

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