“At a time when mental health is of such a concern amongst our young people, our school community saw the phone as a significant and negative contributor to student wellbeing,” he said.
Mobile phones are banned in primary schools in NSW, but high schools have the flexibility to decide if students may use digital devices during school hours.
A NSW Education Department spokesman said high school principals have the discretion to manage “the use of digital devices to best meet the needs of their school communities”.
“Some secondary schools have also chosen to restrict the use of digital devices,” he said.
SCEGGS Darlinghurst joined the list of private schools that ban students from using mobile phones this year.
School principal Jenny Allum in May said teachers were concerned about greater use of phones, “a seeming increase in students’ dependency on them, and just the plain distractibility of students, too.”
Parents group The Heads Up Alliance in July wrote to the department calling for tighter restrictions on mobile phones at schools.
“As parents and teachers, we see first-hand an overwhelming abundance of evidence of the harm that smartphones and social media are inflicting on our children, including in the school setting,” Alliance founders Dany and Cynthia Elachi said.
An online petition calling for a ban on mobile phones in NSW high schools has attracted more than 21,600 signatures.
A survey of Davidson High School parents in 2021 found 89 per cent supported the policy of permitting mobile phones at school but not allowing students to use them.
Teachers also supported the restrictions, provided they were given a device to unlock the phone pouches if required for a lesson.
Rule said the new phone restrictions, which do not apply to year 11 and 12 students, led to positive changes in and out of the classroom.
“Any time you reduce distractions in a classroom for both students and teachers there is benefit,” he said.
The impact can also be seen by walking through the school during any break in lessons and listening to students talking to each other, he said. “In the playground, we no longer have students sitting against walls on phones playing online games.”
Rule said not all students were as enthusiastic about the new phone restrictions as their parents and teachers.
“Like any teenagers in the 21st century, I wouldn’t say students were jumping up and down in delight with the new policy and use of pouches,” he said.
Some students no longer bring their phones to school, Rule said. “They explain they have no need for it and whatever is on it can wait until they get home.”
Year 10 student Annika Hore said the restrictions were initially “very controversial” but students soon got used to not using phones at school.
Fellow student Daniel Kenny said students were more active in breaks between classes and talking to each other more instead of staring at their phones. He also said the ban on phones may have led to less online bullying.
Most parents support restrictions on phone usage at school, said Davidson’s Parents and Citizens Association president Anahita Olsen.
“I think we just see it as a major distraction with their learning and as well as social interaction.”
Northern Sydney District Council of P&C Associations president David Hope said the organization supported restrictions on the use of mobile phones by students “because it is a major distraction to their learning and an opportunity for bullying”.
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