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"I find it frustrating": 7 teachers on what they think about Victoria's mobile phone ban.

A total phone ban for students in Victorian public schools has been introduced, with the State Government employing one of the world’s strictest stances on mobiles in the classroom.

It will take effect at the beginning of term one in 2020, and will see students being made to turn off their phones and keep them in their lockers during school hours.

Announcing the new move, Education Minister James Merlino said the ban is designed to mitigate distractions and cyberbullying in the schoolyard.

“This will remove a major distraction from our classrooms, so that teachers can teach, and students can learn in a more focused, positive and supported environment,” Merlino said in a statement.

“Half of all young people have experienced cyberbullying. By banning mobiles we can stop it at the school gate.”

Merlino further said on Twitter he knew the announcement would not “be universally popular” however he believes “banning mobile phones at schools is the right thing to do.”

But what do teachers, those who will ultimately be the ones enforcing the new rule, think of this new ban?

Here are just seven teacher’s opinions on what the new phone ban means for them.

Amanda* – “Great idea in theory.”

I teach year six in NSW at an independent school.

Phone usage is becoming problematic in primary school. I once had a mother call her sons mobile so much in one day that I eventually picked it up and told her it was inappropriate. It was because her son had forgotten to take canteen money.

Boy, was she unhappy I did that. Even when we insist no phones, the children get emails and WhatsApp messages on their iPads.

The phone ban is a great idea in theory. Students do not need to be contacted at school. If they do, call the school and of course we will pass on anything. Things like change in transport, sport times etc. do happen but the school is happy to manage these emergencies. We are on the side of families. That’s why we want ban phones.

Watch: Things teachers never, ever say. Post continues after video.

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Belinda – “It gives more substance to your rules.”

I teach years seven to 12 in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

Mobile phone use in the classroom is getting worse. Some teachers allow it and that makes it hard when you implement a no phone policy in your classes. However after a few initial lessons and by confiscating phones immediately, students understand expectations and then they eventually respect the rules. It’s a trust thing. Their lives are in those phones and when they lose it they feel like they’ve lost a part of themselves. When they trust you, they understand.

I think the phone ban is great! It gives a bit more substance to your rules and you can link it better to real-world situations if the government is implementing this ban.

mobile phone ban victoria
"I think the phone ban is great!" one teacher said. Image: Getty.

Anna – "Personally, I find it frustrating."

I’m a secondary teacher in a state school in eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

My school returned to a ban on mobile phones this year, apparently at the request of both students and parents. Personally, I find it frustrating – I used to find student phones occasionally useful to have kids film science experiments or role plays, and there was rarely an issue in my class. Certainly, occasionally students – especially younger secondary students with their first mobile – would be distracted by them, but I found it easy to quietly take the phone and put it on the front desk until the end of the lesson. As long as kids knew they were getting the phone back, there were few issues.

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Now we have a policy which has a number of steps but ends up with phones being locked in the school safe until a parent comes to collect them. This causes huge conflict because kids go nuts at the idea of losing their phone for (potentially) several days. A number of my colleagues feel similarly frustrated that we’re having to police something and have more conflict with kids and lose a useful tool, mostly because some staff can’t adequately supervise their students – that’s where cyberbullying happens during class time.

This state wide ban has come as a complete surprise to those of us actually being asked to deal with it.

Bridget – "Phones are a distraction."

I’m a primary teacher so it’s a little different. I taught year five last year and kids could have iPads with them at all times in class. This was a constant distraction and caused problems with staying on task and bullying.

I worked in a high school for a while and it’s a much bigger problem. The children are constantly on their phones and you can’t take them away if there isn’t an explicit policy.

I get why some parents want them to have them but in a classroom it’s just a distraction.

mobile phone ban victoria
"I get why some parents want them to have them but in a classroom it’s just a distraction." Image: Getty.
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Lori – "The addiction is scary!"

I teach year nine, 10 and 11 in Physical Education, Science and Maths.

Generally, phones are bad news, they are distracting. Some students understand the rules and realise when they have done the wrong thing, but unfortunately in this day and age, the most annoying thing is the right the students think they have to have it and be on it.

It is so much more work following the steps of the school behaviour management policy when students refuse to follow your instructions to put them away or hand them over. It is not extra minutes each week, it’s extra hours, which takes me away from planning good lessons, from marking work in a more timely manner, and from leaving that little bit earlier to get home to my family.

The one time phones can, and only sometimes, be handy is if boisterous (generally boys) can quietly sit listening to music and work on an assignment, which sometimes means they don’t distract others!

Social media has such a a negative effect on teenagers wellbeing. Some students feel great being free from their phone, but unfortunately, a couple can feel anxious when they aren't with their phone because they don't know what they are missing out on. The addiction is scary!

Ali – "It's just a weird policy."

I teach at a low socio-economic-status high school.  Phones are a problem but more often than not parents have supported the student using the phone for whatever reason – such as they needed to be in contact for work, family emergencies, works better with earphones in etc.

Schools often have a no phone in class policy which causes more arguments with teachers than it prevents. It’s just a weird policy; having more rules often doesn’t make anything any better.

Emily – "Fully support."

I'm a high school teacher for years seven-12. I fully support the new ban.

My school does not allow phones and it works. Students do not need them in the classroom.

We used to have a lot of issues before our policy change but now the rules are clear. Deputies used to spend so much time chasing stolen phones/lost phones etc. Even now, it's still a problem, but at least rules are clear.

I hate the idea of inappropriately filming, bullying etc during school time. At least now we cannot be blamed for “bullying” via devices and social media during school time.

*Some names have been changed to protect privacy. 

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