Time for school mobile phone ban
Mobile phones should be banned in Queensland schools, experts say, as they call for the Palaszczuk Government to impose state-wide restrictions in line with five other states.
Cyber cop Susan McLean, who worked on the NSW inquiry into phones in schools, University of the Sunshine Coast child development expert Dr Michael Nagel, and leading child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg called on the Queensland government to step in line with other states which had initiated mobile phone restrictions.
Federal Education Minister Dan Teahan said the Federal Government advocates for all states and territories to ban mobile phones from classrooms, and encouraged Queensland to follow the lead of South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia.
But Education Minister Grace Grace has held firm that individual school principals should make decisions about whether phones should be banned.
It comes after South Australia last week announced it would ban mobile phones in primary schools.
Ms McLean said unsupervised use of phones at school was not necessary, not required, and leads to "all sorts of trouble", not least difficulty concentrating and learning.
"Schools have these big signs that all visitors must go to the office, you don't have random people talking to students on school property, if they're on their phone how are you going to stop that from happening?
"If they access any sort of illegal or inappropriate content during the school day, on school grounds, the school is legally responsible.
"It's the non-educational use and unsupervised use during the school day that needs to be banned, there is one exception where there are medical exemptions."
Dr Nagel said it should be a state-wide policy rather than passing the buck onto principals.
"There really isn't any evidence suggesting that students need phones at school," he said.
"The evidence around the negative impact around phone and screen time is quite compelling in that it's linked to mental health issues."
Mr Tehan said the federal government were concerned mobile phones were a distraction to students and teachers, and used to facilitate bullying.
Education Minister Grace Grace said the Palaszczuk government had adopted the 2018 Anti-Cyberbullying Taskforce's recommendation that schools have the autonomy to make the call on banning phones.
"To date this year, I haven't received any correspondence from stakeholders or community groups advocating for a widespread ban on devices in schools," she said.
"All indications are that our implementation of this policy is working well throughout all schools in Queensland."
Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates said the taskforce had carefully considered the matter and consulted parents, educators and students across the state but there was no consensus on the vexed issue.
"Ultimately the anti-cyberbullying taskforce made the recommendation that the government doesn't mandate phone bans," he said.
"That's not a position that is never going to be subject to change but we should not lightly consider moving away from that recommended decision because of the extensive work that went into consulting with the community, parents, students, educators," he said.
But Dr Carr-Gregg said he thought Queensland should catch up with the rest of Australia.
He said schools with bans in place reported an increase in socialisation, a decline in bullying and cyberbullying, and an increase in academic performance.
"There is no need for mobile phones in schools from first bell to last unless of course a teacher decides it is necessary for instruction," he said.
Originally published as Time for school mobile phone ban