The recent decision by the Victorian government to ban mobile phones has been met with controversy.
The Victorian Government’s decision to ban mobile phones during school hours in all state secondary and primary schools next year has been met with mixed feelings from educators, parents and students. The move is intended to curb cyber bullying and distractions in the classroom and is one of the toughest stances on mobile phone use in the world. The policy, introduced last month, has placed a school-hours ban on mobile phones and reported positive changes in terms of social interaction and fewer distractions in class. Some exemptions will exist for students who legitimately need their phones for health conditions and teachers will still be able to give permission to students to use their mobile phones for particular classroom activities. The change was made after repeated concerns were raised by both parents and teachers. Research from Headspace was used to support the decision, which found that 53 per cent of all bullying occurs online. While many schools in the Victorian private sector have also introduced similar bans on mobile phones during school hours, many educators and parents are unconvinced that it was the right decision.
Some people feel that the ban would diminish students’ abilities to self-manage and would actually cause more conflict between students and teachers. There are times when mobile phones are used for legitimate reasons in classrooms, such as taking photos of work and accessing calendars. Some parents rely on mobile phones to communicate with their children during lunch or recess hours, something that would be banned under the new Victorian policy. Another anticipated problem is the shift of focus from the problem behaviour to the problem of technology and this might not prepare students for the “workforce of tomorrow”.
St Edmund’s College is not immune to the issues faced by technology. It is a prevalent part of modern society and it would be a challenge to find a child between the ages of 13-18 who doesn’t own a mobile phone. While the State-wide ban in Victoria may seem extreme, it is attempting to address one of the most pertinent issues facing schools today. However, perhaps the best solution is to teach students about responsible use of technology rather than outlawing it all together. Soon we may see students huddled behind the bike sheds, sharing a glimpse of the screen before the bell rings for class, being shooed off by teachers who themselves are checking their Instagram feed.
Jonathan Hall (Head of Mulrooney House)