'I am a teacher in NSW. I don't believe a phone ban at school solves anything.'

Serena* is a teacher at a busy public school in NSW. 

Where she works, a ban on kids having their phones is already in place – a measure that will be compulsory for all schools from the end of 2023, as NSW Premier Chris Minns announced recently. 

But while most parents, community groups and schools are celebrating the move, there are plenty – including Serena – who don't believe an outright ban on phones is the answer.

"Since the ban, our school has actually seen an increase in conflict," Serena tells Mamamia. 

While there have been some small improvements in reducing in-classroom distractions, she believes an all-out ban is simply a bandaid stuck on a much bigger issue.

"Kids are bored and don't know what to do with themselves. We are trying to solve this problem with more clubs at lunchtime, but it speaks to the broader societal issue we have with phone addiction. We need to help kids better manage their reliance on technology," she explains.

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"I think integrating phones into education is a better way forward – just as we have to in the workplace. Phones are not going anywhere and we have to be adaptable. In my career I've gone from teaching with overhead projectors to laptops, and I think we have to integrate the technology rather than simply ban it as it doesn't reflect real life."


Secondary-school relief teacher and mum of three teenagers Ari*, however, disagrees. 

While she doesn't think the lockable pouch system has long-term potential because of kids using fake or old phones, the phone 'jamming' technology used in prisons has potential.

"The distraction in classrooms is constant," Ari, who is based in Queensland, told Mamamia.

"I can hear notifications pinging every few minutes and when the app 'Be Real' goes off, you can hear the whisper ripple around the room.

"Last week a student filmed me in class on Snapchat and sent it to her friend, my daughter. It was just to say, 'Look who is teaching me today', but I don't like the idea of being filmed without my knowledge. Imagine if I did the same?

"As a mum of three teens, if my daughters' school told me they were banning phones, I would rejoice! But I recognise it does present complications, which is why I think a 5G blocking or jamming system might work best."

Serena believes that another issue with a blanket ban is the lack of recognition around what students use their phones for – and it isn't just TikTok.

"As teachers, we rely a lot on them to take photos of work or to communicate with them via Google Chat, especially in terms of welfare or events that are coming up. The older ones have jobs and when they have study periods, and someone from their work is trying to get in contact with them about a shift, they can't respond.


"Honestly, I don't think all parents will be happy either, as I have a lot of parents contacting their kids during the school day."

Serena believes governments need to spend more time talking to teachers at a grassroots level to understand the issues in contemporary classrooms, saying we need to 'zoom out' to see the bigger picture.

"I don't think it's just the phone," she says. "Yes, its social media use, but I think it is mostly the lack of socialisation that is contributing to an increase in antisocial and toxic behaviour at schools. Nobody is really dealing with the ramifications of COVID on these kids. They have not socialised in the same way that kids did five years ago because they spent some of their most important years on screens in lockdown.

"There's also a massive teacher shortage that's impacting kids. You have five to seven classes in the hall with one teacher supervising them, who may not even be trained in that subject. And we wonder why the kids are acting out or they have gaps in their learning? Things are very unstable in schools right now and we are constantly putting out little fires but not addressing the big picture.

"It's almost like, societally, we're regressing, and that I think that is far more concerning than whether kids are on the phone in my classroom."

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Ari however, believes that a small step to control behaviour and distraction at school with a blanket phone ban will help, even if it doesn't address all the issues.

"There's this assumption that all technology is good and we need to adapt to welcome it, but look at the mass panic around ChatGPT that is taking exams back to pen and paper. I see kids in Year 7 who have been learning on devices and now can't write because they haven't had to for years. What are we doing to our kids?

"Yes, they can use Snapchat, but just because they can navigate social media doesn't mean they can open a Word or Excel document or save a PDF. I don't think that all this technology is actually teaching them how to use technology better!" says Ari.

"As a parent, I'm constantly battling with my kids about phone etiquette and they say to me, 'Well such-and-such is allowed to have their phone at school'. If the phones are banned as a blanket school rule, and kids are treated equally across the board, it takes away the arguing.

"And as a parent, you then know that for those six hours of the school day they don't have a phone – and at least that would be a good start."

*While these women are known to Mamamia, their names have been changed for privacy reasons.

Laura Jackel is Mamamia's Family Writer. For links to her articles and to see photos of her outfits and kids, follow her on Instagram and TikTok.

Feature Image: Getty.

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