A Queensland high school has banned the use of phones to improve the social behaviour of students and curb cyber bullying.

Students at Pimpama State Secondary College are having their phones confiscated and facing detentions if caught during class time and lunch breaks.

PARENTS BACKING NEEDED FOR MOBILE PHONE BAN TO WORK

"Driving to work the other morning I drove past a bus stop to see 30 kids' heads down in their screens," principal John Thornberry said.

 

Pimpama State Secondary College principal John Thornberry. Picture: Mike Batterham
Pimpama State Secondary College principal John Thornberry. Picture: Mike Batterham

"Social media is having a massive impact on schools. There is a lack of empathy and students are unable to speak face-to-face, read body language and facial expressions."

Upper Coomera State College has also introduced a blanket ban on mobiles.

Experts have applauded the restriction on electronic devices and said research showed them replacing exercise books did not improve learning.

"We want to address the welfare of kids, to give them a space to learn without being bombarded by what's happening online," Mr Thornberry said.

"We have incidents of kids during lunchtime who have had a photo taken of them without their permission, or texting in the playground things that are inappropriate or nasty."

Educators say cyber bullying begins at home.
Educators say cyber bullying begins at home.

Those caught using a phone will be asked to take it to the office. They are given a receipt and collect it after school.

Repeat offenders face detention during the lunchbreak or the parent/guardian is contacted for support.

"Cyber bullying plays out in schools, but it is something that needs to be tackled as a whole community as most of the bullying itself happens at home," Mr Thornberry said.

"A school initiative around cyber bullying can't be the only step."

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Cherie Price, a former vice-president of the school P&C, said a number of parents supported the ban.

"There is talk about safety. If someone urgently need to ring their parents, they have to come to the office. But we survived, I am sure they can today," she said.

Curtin University senior lecturer in literacy Dr Margaret Merga said communities were becoming more aware of the impact devices could have on learning.

"Australian students are spending a lot of time online, more than most other digital natives," Dr Merga said.

"This comes with potential issues, spinal problems, sleep disorders, eyestrain.

"Research has shown that those who spent more time online are less happy, less satisfied and have lower self esteem."

Queensland Teachers Union President Kevin Bates. Photo: Claudia Baxter
Queensland Teachers Union President Kevin Bates. Photo: Claudia Baxter

Even the mere presence of devices reduced available cognitive capacity, according to a 2017 study published by the Association of Consumer Research.

Computers in classrooms were also found to have little benefit to learning, providing no appreciable improvement in reading or mathematics, a 2015 OECD study found.

"We are at just the beginning of research in that field," Dr Merga said. "I am not anti tech but we need to look at it from all directions, to benefit learning.

"We see kids on screen for only a few hours a day, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

"We don't consider the time they are spending during recess and lunch breaks as additional screen time."

Teachers Union president Kevin Bates said he had reservations about the viability of blanket bans.

"Based on a range of consultations, one of the things that has come through is prohibition is not an effective way of dealing with this," he said.

Educators say cyber bullying begins at home.
Educators say cyber bullying begins at home.

 

As member on the Premier's Cyber Bullying taskforce, Mr Bates said he was aware of a range of measures Queensland schools are making to tackle the problem.

"It is impossible to operate in this space without being part of digital environment, we need to build positive relationships with technology. We can't turn off the tap."



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