Banning Mobile Phones in Schools: Positive Progress or a Misguided Solution?
Mobile phones are ubiquitous in modern society and schools are in no way immune to the phenomenon. Across the world, in the media and among our lawmakers and academics, there has been an ongoing debate about the impact of mobile phones being used by students during school hours. This discussion was reignited in Australia after Victorian Education Minister, James Merlino, announced that mobiles will be banned for all students in Victoria’s state primary and secondary schools.
While there are compelling reasons in favour of removing mobile phones from schools, there are also good reasons for being cautious about instigating such a sweeping ban. Unlike government schools who must abide by Department policy directives, Waverley College as an independent school can apply our discretion in relation to this issue.
Arguably the key argument raised in favour of banning mobile phones from schools, or at least from our classrooms, is that they distract students and detrimentally affect learning – just as an open laptop can on occasions. Waverley College agrees with this argument and bans mobile phones in the classroom or on the boys during class time.
Lowering the incidence of cyberbullying is another commonly cited reason for preventing students from using their phones during school hours. Current research suggests half of all young people have experienced cyberbullying via mobile phones. Child psychologist, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, similarly points out that‚ ‘all schools have a legal obligation to provide a safe environment in which to learn’ and that banning mobiles makes this easier to achieve.
However, it is worth noting that much of the cyberbullying experienced by young people does not occur during school hours or on school premises. In fact, part of what makes cyber-bullying so dangerous is that it can occur anywhere and at any time. Clearly then, the problem will not suddenly come to an end by preventing students from using their phone at school.
What is the policy at Waverley College?
The College recognises that most students possess mobile devices such as mobile phones, iPads, and Apple Watches. These devices are a useful way for family members to keep in touch. The devices are often expensive, so securing them safely is a priority for all students. They also have the capacity to be a distraction in a school environment and so guidelines are required for their use.
Who does this policy apply to?
Our policy covers all students from Years 5 to 12.
At the College (Years 7 to 12):
Devices are to be stored in lockers, and placed on silent or flight mode to eliminate loud ringtones. They can only be used next to one’s locker before school, recess, lunch or after school for short periods of time.
The only exception to this is when students are instructed to contact their parent/guardian regarding variations to scheduled events or, under direct teacher supervision, they may use their device.
Devices cannot be taken to class (every student has a laptop in class).
If a mobile phone is brought to any class, a student will receive a three-hour detention.
Parents needing to contact their son during class time should contact school reception directly.
Boys found to have mobile devices switched ‘on’, using devices to ‘hotspot’ laptops to external data sources, bypassing the College’s network, or used in any way deemed inappropriate by College staff or a supervising adult can expect a three-hour detention. Mobile phones will be confiscated if it becomes an ongoing disruption to the learning process, has been a medium for a breach of privacy or holds information pertaining to a crime. Parents/guardians will be notified immediately about any confiscation.
At the Junior School (Years 5 and 6):
Devices are collected in the classroom at the beginning of the day and placed securely in the office. At the end of the school day they are collected and returned to each student.
During College Activities:
The College will determine the use of mobile phones during off-campus activities arranged by the College, including field trips, camps and retreats.
The College takes no responsibility for a mobile device on its premises or excursions. Families are advised that the College expects that if boys bring mobile devices to school or on excursions they do so with the full knowledge and authority of their parents. Parents are therefore advised to take appropriate measures to insure such mobile devices against loss, damage or theft.
The College recognises that with many students travelling considerable distances to and from the College, with often irregular bus and train transport, it is important for the safety of the students that they have the capacity to contact their parents or other family members in an emergency.
The College recognises that most devices have the ability to take photos or videos. Boys are reminded that the law prohibits the use of devices for taking photos or videos of anyone without their permission and expressly forbids the use of cameras in change rooms and toilets.