'Massively overdue' smartphone review to tackle predators, cyberbullies
By Jordan Baker, smh.com.au, 21 June 2018
Tackling predators and cyber bullying will be the priority for a review of phones in NSW schools, and a recommendation to ban smartphones in primary school is on the cards, says the psychologist heading the review, Michael Carr-Gregg.
NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes called Dr Carr-Gregg on Wednesday to ask him to head the review, which will be the first in Australia.
The terms of reference have not yet been drawn up, no panel has been chosen and no deadline has been decided.
Dr Carr-Gregg said he would look at global research into smartphones in schools, and what schools are doing around the world. He would invite submissions and report back to the minister with suggestions for smartphone guidelines in schools.
At present, school policies for electronic devices vary widely. After the review, schools would still be able to decide their own policies, but they would have research on which to base those decisions.
"I think it's massively overdue," Dr Carr-Gregg said. "You have to understand that there is huge community concern around this issue, [and] there is also a legal duty of care that schools have to keep students safe, to provide them with a safe environment in which to learn."
Distraction and lack of sleep were big issues arising from mobile phone use, but predators and cyber bullying were the most pressing, he said.
"One in four children under the age of 12 are being stalked, harassed and abused," Dr Carr-Gregg said.
World education expert Pasi Sahlberg, from Finland, recently called for a ban on smartphones in NSW primary schools.
Dr Carr-Gregg said such a ban was doable - for example, parents could buy their children "dumb phones" rather than smart phones.
"I am not anti-technology at all. I think we have to find a balance between helping young people manage their school work, have a social life and get the good parts out of technology; that's the challenge."
Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham welcomed the review, reiterating his view that there was no place in the classroom for mobile phones.
"Technology has a role to play in the classroom and, of course, we need to facilitate that, but personal mobile phones are obviously a potential distraction in terms of access to social media sites, as well as potentially a source of bullying activities," he told the Nine Network.
The president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Maurie Mulheron, also welcomed the review but said teachers had to be involved.
"For a review to have real education implications, I think you need to have an educator involved as well," he said.
"We know it's changing young people's behaviour in ways that we haven't predicted. We also know that there are many vulnerable students who are on the receiving end of bullying and harassment. And inside the classroom it can be extraordinarily frustrating for teachers."