Australia should follow France’s lead and introduce a blanket ban on students having mobile phones at school, Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham has suggested.
But some educators argue young people need to learn how to manage their digital devices — and the best place for that is at school.
The ABC asked school students and one principal how they try to manage their use of phones and other devices, along with the distractions created by text messaging and social media.
Plusses and minuses of ‘BYOD’
Canterbury Girls High School has a “bring your own device” (BYOD) policy, and students are encouraged to use the wi-fi and be online when they are in the classroom.
High school student Ella Reynolds appreciates the advantages of using devices in the classroom in contrast to older technologies (Pixabay: facethebook)
Student Ella Reynolds said she really liked some of the features of using a device, such as the ability to look up words immediately.
“It’s got to the point where reading an actual physical textbook is so…”
“Boring,” her friend interjected.
“…tedious,” she agreed.
But for Ella, mobile phones and other devices around also present some challenges.
“I find it kind of easy at school because the teacher is talking and it’s really detrimental to you if you’re not listening and if you’re going on other stuff, but at home it is hard,” she said.
“Once I start work, I’m okay with keeping off Netflix or YouTube, but if you’re on a screen having to click off and start your work is really hard.”
Ella said she wanted to do well at school, so she eventually switches over to doing her work.
“In the end it’s fear that motivates me,” she said.
Finding balance and setting limits
Ella’s schoolmate, Grace Taffa, also finds accessing the internet crucial for her studies, but she readily admits her digital devices also provide a world of distractions.
Grace said she finds the online world pretty useful for learning, particularly research.
“I think I would use it for every class — I would have trouble if I didn’t bring my laptop to school every day,” she said.
But she’s also on social media every day.
And quizzes are a particular temptation.
“I think a majority of school students go on particular websites where there’s quizzes,” she said. “If you get bored, you can spend a long time on quizzes.”
Along with YouTube: “If I have my headphones during my free periods I will go on YouTube and watch trailers,” she said.
Grace said that could eat up a lot of her time.
“You realise you spend hours and hours on YouTube and time has gone by,” she said.
It’s a distraction — 100 per cent.”
So, how does she find a balance?
It isn’t easy.
“I’ll potentially do the assessment or whatever late at night when I’ve realised ‘I should start this now’,” Grace admitted.
To help her limit her own use, she also uses applications on her devices which prevent her from accessing the distractions.
“They go into your laptop and actually block Facebook, YouTube, and you can’t access it, even if you try and delete the app, which is really helpful,” she explained.
Prohibition doesn’t work: Principal
Canterbury Girls High School principal Sue Holden is well aware of the problems associated with digital devices.
Prohibition does not work, and a ban on devices and phones would cause more problems than it solved, a school principal told the ABC. (Library of Congress)
But she is also an enthusiastic advocate for keeping students connected to the online world.
“Technology has brought brilliant change to classrooms,” Ms Holden said.
“The benefits of connected devices in the classroom is huge to developing young people who can meet the demands of future employment areas, which is clearly heavily based in the use of technology.”
Ms Holden said she believed bans on devices created more problems than they actually solved.
“I totally disagree with banning devices and phones — prohibition has never worked,” she said.
“Our responsibility and parents’ responsibility and the community responsibility is to support young people to realise the real purpose and use those devices appropriately.”