Mobiles, schools and bullying – statistics from the USA

Data collected by the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics shows some interesting results around cyber bullying in schools, with schools that prohibit phone use by students reporting a higher incidence of cyber bullying.

You can read the results here:

These findings are interesting in light of the recently placed ban on smartphones in NSW primary schools and in context of the ongoing debate in other States around a potential prohibiting phones in classrooms.

AMTA represents the mobile telecommunications industry in Australia and so we do not advocate either for or against non-educational use of mobile devices and smartphones in schools. We believe that State Education Departments, school administrators and principals, working with parents and caregivers, are best placed to determine policy around use of devices in schools.

However, we do believe that in setting policy for schools, consideration should be given to how the various types of mobile devices available can be used safely and responsibly, together with available academic research and advice from the Office of the eSafety Commissioner as well as feedback from the broader community of stakeholders, including parents, teachers and students.

We believe that there is space for the safe and responsible use of mobile technology for educational purposes in schools and that any benefits from safe and responsible use should not be overlooked if the risks can be appropriately managed by implementing a robust, practical and effective policy framework around mobile device use in schools.

AMTA recognises the Office of the eSafety Commissioner in its role as a Government advisory agency and regulator as possessing the requisite expertise in terms of guidance on eSafety issues including bullying and smartphone use. We note that the eSafety Commissioner’s Office supports an approach based on education and empowerment around the use of devices in schools, rather than a prohibition.

We also note that most State Education Departments have in place policies in relation to the use of technology, including Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies. And many schools have their own Acceptable Use policies in relation to non-educational use of mobile phones and other mobile devices while at school. Such policies provide students and caregivers with clear guidance on expectations for mobile device use and student behavior while at school.

Mobile technology, similarly to other technology used by schools and teachers, such as, laptops, Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality, and the resources of the internet and communications networks, can be a powerful and useful tool in the classroom for engaging children and encouraging critical thinking across all areas of the curriculum.

For example, AMTA’s Mobile Connections program allows geography students to look at their personal connections to mobile technology and the impact it has on society, the economy and the environment. It also encourages students to recycle mobile phones through our Mobile Muster program.

Another example, is ASIC’s MoneySmart teaching resources for schools that uses mobile phones as a case study for teaching children about consumer rights and managing their use and spending in relation to mobiles; acknowledging that a mobile phone contract may be a teenager’s first experience of entering into a contract and making a significant financial purchase.

AMTA also notes that there are mobile apps available that enable parents and children to better monitor health conditions such as diabetes. In such cases, the use of a smartphone at school will be non-educational but provides critical health benefits as well as enables independence and improved participation for some students at school.

Similarly, there are various GPS tracker phone devices available on the market that some parents and caregivers find useful for safety. These devices typically provide a vital safety net allowing parents or caregivers to identify the location of their children and set safety boundaries. These devices may be particularly useful for children and young adults with special needs or disabilities, to enable greater independence in a safe manner. Such devices typically have a limited communications capability to a list of prepopulated numbers to allow easy communication between the parent and their child.

AMTA supports the responsible and safe use of mobile devices by everyone and recommends that parents, caregivers and teachers use the resources made available via the eSafety Commissioner’s Office to understand how children and teenagers can be guided to use technology safely and responsibly. It is important to recognise that even if non-educational use of mobile devices is banned at certain schools; there is still an important role for schools to play in educating students, parents and caregivers about safe and responsible use of the technology outside of school and in preparing children for a life involving technology beyond school.