A Department of Education review of smartphone policies around the world has found that students manage to find “workarounds” when devices are banned at school – yet the NSW government has prohibited phones in primary schools.

The Department’s review of the evidence on phones in classrooms notes that schools across Australia and around the world have taken opposing stances, reflecting the local debate between the NSW government, and parents groups and teachers’ unions, which say they are necessary learning and communication tools.

The review considered a number of studies that have associated increased screen time with “lower levels of psychological wellbeing”, “decreased social interaction” and higher levels of “mental health issues including depression, suicide and suicide-related outcomes”.

However, it notes that other research has found that nearly two hours of device use on weekdays and about four hours on weekend days, which is classified as moderate screen time, is “unlikely to present a material risk to mental well-being”.

It also found that 65 per cent of students surveyed in US schools that banned mobile phones brought their device to school every day despite the ban.

“[Studies show that] irrespective of the controls schools have in place to regulate access to mobile digital devices, students are capable of ‘workarounds’,” the review finds.

It finds that the main concerns about devices relate to “cyberbullying, access to inappropriate material, social interaction, and distraction from school work”.

However, the review notes that the Department’s latest Tell Them From Me student survey found that in 2018 only 15 per cent of NSW high school students reported experiencing cyberbullying at least once in a month, compared to 31 per cent who said they had been verbally bullied and 17 per cent who said they were physically bullied.

A national survey in 2014 found that 45 per cent of students reported having received a sexually explicit photo or video and more than 54 per cent had received an explicit text message, the review found.

– Pallavi Singhal, The Sydney Morning Herald

Read more: Students Find ‘Workarounds’ for School Phone Bans

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