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New South Wales (NSW) students will be barred from using their phones at the start of term four in October.
Newly elected NSW Education Minister Prue Car said the ban would improve educational outcomes, reduce distractions in classrooms, and help address cyberbullying issues.
Students will hand over their devices at the beginning of the day, before retrieving them once school is finished.
Car told 2GB radio on April 3 that the ban would also apply during recess and lunch.
Car said she has “lost count” of the number of times teachers have reported students sitting in the playground playing on their phones rather than interacting with each other.
The education minister said further consultation was needed around how a ban would be implemented but noted that “everyone will have to comply.”
Car did not rule out paying for lockers if schools determined they were the best for storing phones, but said the state would not ban iPads or smart watches.
NSW Premier Chris Minns said the ban, a longstanding election promise made by the centre-left Labor party, will be applied with “commonsense” and in consultation with the experts.
He pointed to northern Sydney’s Davidson High School, which reported a 90 percent improvement in student behaviour in just eight weeks after banning the use of mobile phones.
The move follows similar bans across public primary and secondary schools, as well as private schools in Victoria in 2020.
As for ChatGPT, the NSW education minister said she had sought “urgent advice” on the issue but a ban is unlikely to happen.
“It’s a brave new world and we certainly don’t want to be doing anything that sort of harm our children’s educational opportunity, that’s a 100 percent for sure,” Car said.
Researchers Show Mobile Phones Cause Classroom Disruption
Michael Carr-Gregg, an adolescent and child psychologist, as well as the author of 14 books, backed the phone ban.
He said students and classes would benefit from being required to “switch off their phones and store them securely in lockers from the start of the school until the final bell.”
The only exceptions should be when students use phones to monitor health conditions, or when teachers instruct students to bring their phones for a particular classroom activity.
“The lived experience of schools who have employed this approach is that it removes a major distraction from the classrooms, so that teachers can teach, and students can learn in a more focused, positive and supported environment,” he told The Epoch Times in an email.
Clinical experts have also warned that multitasking on phones, between different devices, and between phones and other tasks, can hamper the ability to think.
A 2009 Stanford study showed that heavy media multitaskers are more prone to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli.
While a 2021 study published in Frontiers in Psychology revealed that constant disruptions from the phone could evoke negative emotional reactions and undermine the users’ psychological well-being.
“Kids will start a task, try to get the task done, but not take the time to travel along and figure out how to do the task best,” Carr-Gregg added, noting that people without a disciplined routine of thinking and learning will have more difficulty improving their performance.
According to a 2021 survey by Monash University of more than 2,000 adults, nearly 80 percent backed a ban, although 69 percent agreed phones make a “positive” contribution to the school experience.
A 2021 research by review.org revealed that the Generation Z (1997-2012) cohort spend about 7.3 hours a day on the screen. This is higher than the average amount of time that Australians spend on their phone, which is 5.5 hours per day, equating to 16.6 years of the average lifespan.
Some Experts Disagree
Some researchers still doubt the effectiveness of mobile phone bans.
A 2015 study by Swedish researchers showed mobile phones did not cause disruption in the classroom because students were on their phones at the end of lessons or between tasks.
Meanwhile, a 2020 Swedish study that examined high school students’ marks before and after a year of a phone ban found no impact on student performance. The study is frequently cited by those who disagree with the phone ban.
“Teachers may in fact already have mobile phone bans in practice in the classroom regardless of school policy. On the other hand … although teachers in upper secondary schools may not consider mobile phones, in general, to be particularly useful during lessons, they may still permit specific schoolwork-related usage,” the paper said.
The research partly replicates an influential 2016 study that showed a phone ban was an effective and low-cost policy. The authors noted that they increased the number of participants in their survey although at the “expense of the amount of information collected.”