A War on Smartphones in Schools

By Taj Pabari on August 6, 2018

Mark 2018 as the year Australia declared a war on smartphones. I read a news story a couple months ago about a number of high profile politicians calling for the ban of smartphones in schools. I then read another news story stating a list of schools that had actually begun the process of banning the use of smartphones in the school grounds, both during class and during breaks. According to many, the solution to stopping cyber bullying is to ban smartphones indefinitely.

While the initial idea of keeping smartphones out of the hands of young people for as long as possible is intuitively appealing at face value for a variety of reasons including addiction, mental health and excessive screen time, an outright smartphone ban is not the solution we need. When we dealt with physical bullying, dismantling the school playground was never on the cards. Banning the smartphone for the purpose of stopping cyberbullying should not be on the cards either.

I finished high school a couple of years ago and when discussions around the banning of smartphones was brought up by teachers, group discussions during break times would take place on the alternatives should the ban ever come into effect. Young people are perfectly capable of coming up with strategic ways to access banned material. Trust me.

Take sex, alcohol and drugs as an example. We know that by making something illegal, it does not stop young people doing it. Our alternatives to the smartphone ban included having an active personal hotspot in our locker or having a secondary smartphone that we provide to the teachers in the morning. By banning smartphones completely, they’re only becoming a forbidden fruit. Is this what we really want?

In any case, banning smartphones in schools won’t decrease cyberbullying at all. Cyberbullying is mostly done outside of school hours anyway and thus will only amplify screen time, before and after-school. There is zero credible research to suggest a smartphone ban has any positive effect either. The people who have called for banning smartphones have clearly never taught in the classroom or worked with this generation of young people.

We must urgently begin a constructive discussion on a standardised education program for cyber safety in our country. In Queensland, I am very humbled and proud to have been selected by our Premier to sit on the Anti-Cyberbullying Taskforce. Part of this discussion can and should involve carefully structured restrictions of the use of smartphones during class-time.

We should teach young people about the power of being present and living in the moment. This will ensure that young people are building a sustainable and long-lasting pattern of safe and appropriate smartphone usage forever.

Peter Hutton, the Chief Executive Officer/ Principal of Templestowe College encourages smartphone usage in the classroom. In fact, if students do not have a smartphone in the classroom, they’re doing the wrong thing. The school has zero cyberbullying incidents and the usage of smartphones has actually decreased as a result of educating young people on appropriate smartphone usage.

School is a time where we should be forming healthy habits for our future and learning from our mistakes. No teacher or parent can protect their child forever. If we ban the use of smartphones from Grade 1 to Grade 12, I can only imagine the number of students who will be entering the workforce or higher education with unhealthy and unstructured smartphone habits.

Moderation is the key – let’s educate, not ban.

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Taj Pabari is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Fiftysix Creations. Australasia’s Largest Entrepreneurship School Workshop Provider. As of 1 June 2018, Fiftysix Creations has educated 40,112 Australian Students.

Website: www.fiftysix.edu.au

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