Monday, April 29, 2024

Kerre Woodham: Phone ban in schools starts today

If you're a teenager addicted to your phone and the world that lies within and beyond your apps, it's the end of the world as you know it today.

The Government's ban on phones in schools kicks in as kids return to school for Term two, meaning students won't be able to use their cell phones during the day - including at lunch time and during breaks. Some schools have gone early and introduced it in Term one. They saw the writing on the wall, thought they'd bedded in before they were required to by law. Others have gone even earlier. They decided it was the right thing for their school to ban cell phones, and they didn't need a government imperative to do so.

In a shocking departure from the norm, there seemed to be wholesale support for the ban, despite it being an initiative of the wicked, evil National government. And it appears that the headlines are in the main, supportive that the media have found people who are supportive of the ban, like New Zealand Secondary Principals Council Chair Kate Gainsford. She says schools across the country already have measures in place, but the changes will make it easier to stop distractions. She says parents have appreciated the support because they're having the same sorts of conversations in their own homes about the harmful effects of too much time online, about limiting screen time.

So, now you've got rules around cell phone use at home that are being replicated in the school grounds, so the adults are working together. It seems that parents, educators, even some of the kids agree that 24/7 access to cell phones is a bad idea, but for years nobody wanted to be the one with the stick - you wanted to be down with the kids on their level, you didn't want to impinge on their freedoms. And then along came Erica Stanford. When she entered government as part of the National team in the coalition government. She was big on banning cell phones and she says she has no problem waving a big stick if it means the kids will benefit.

Erica Stanford - “I've had a lot of principals say to me, look, it was really hard, there was lots of pushback from kids, but now you've done it, you're the bad guy. I'm quite happy to be the bad guy, Mike. It means improved mental health and academic outcomes for our kids. I mean, there was a Norwegian study that's just come out saying that this has got incredibly good outcomes for especially low socioeconomic girls for their mental health, but also GPA grades and bullying is reduced as well, so look - I'm happy to be the bad guy.”

That was bad guy, Erica Stanford, Education Minister, talking to Mike Hosking this morning. It's not just Norwegian studies. Studies by researchers at the University of Texas and Louisiana State University found that where students were banned from bringing their smartphones into the classroom, their grades quickly improved. Around an average of 6 percent. That's without the distractions. That's amazing. The results were most pronounced for high school students over 16. It's even better for at risk students, as Erica Stanford referred to. Students who live in poverty or attend special education classes benefited approximately twice as much as their peers, after ditching the technological distraction.

By removing phones from the classroom, apparently it's the equivalent of adding an extra hour of class per week. Students lose almost a full week of school interacting with their phones rather than engaging in class time. The only counter study I can find, with arguments against is that children feel infantilised. Well, your children, it’s kind of a point. And if you can't stay off your phones then it shows that your childlike behaviour needs to be modified.

I just cannot believe that teachers, principals feel so disempowered that they can't make the rules in their own schools. Some don't, some have, and some did - and good on them. But a lot of principals didn't want to have a battle with parents who said I need to get in touch with my child in case there's an emergency. Well, you know, there is still the school, P.A. Let's go analog and use your copper phone to dial up Mrs Grimes, the school secretary, and she will be able to pass on a message. She will also be able to vet whether it is indeed an emergency. I forgot to pack your lunch, darling, mummy will bring it in in two hours is not an emergency. And Mrs Grimes knows that so she won't pass that message on. I just cannot see any downside to this.

There's a lot of cyber bullying that goes on, and while the internet has been an extraordinary invention and cell phones have been amazing and we can't go back and nor would we want to, the dark side, the downside, is severe and cruel and the cyber bullying is vicious. Kids should be safe at school. They shouldn't have to be checking their phones under their desks, desperately making sure that nobody's started for no reason at all, a campaign against them that's going to ruin their lives for the next five years.

School should be a safe place. Home should be a safe place. Surely there is nobody, nobody who would speak against a ban on cell phones in schools? It's a good move.

Kerre McIvor, is a journalist, radio presenter, author and columnist. Currently hosts the Kerre Woodham mornings show on Newstalk ZB - where this article was sourced.


Grumpy said...

Well said Kerre. The only thing that surprises me is that it has taken this long (and a change of govt) to fix this obvious problem.
One of the most addictive devices ever invented, given to immature brains, then we allowed the children to keep said phones activated when they were in class?
Who would imagine that it would be fine?
Don't like it? Sorry, too bad. Well done Erica.

Anonymous said...

Well done Eric Standford for being a Principal & parent so few adults are prepared to be. Smart phones are as addictive as class A drugs. You wouldn’t give drugs to children, so why give them phones?

It is my view parents are negligent if they 1) give their kids phones too young & 2) allow them to have unlimited & unfettered access.

Since social media’s inception we have seen numeracy & literacy decline rates decline & the rates of everything awful increase for young people - from porn access & the resulting increase in sexual harassment, consent & sexual injuries, to bullying, anxiety, self-harm & suicides.

It is not difficult for parents to restrict time on their children’s phone & access to inappropriate material, yet so few are willing to do it. It would appear many prefer to be babysitters rather than parents - no boundaries, no discipline, no accountability. Then they wonder why their children have anxiety. It’s not rocket science.