Please listen to parents. We want a consistent mobile phone policy for secondary schools


There have been over 20,000 signatures on our petition to ban phones during recess and lunch at school. Thousands of parents have expressed their desire for schools to restrict the use of mobile phones at school – specifically to not allow them during breaks like recess and lunch – when kids should be chatting, forming friendships and playing. 

High schools across NSW have an inconsistent approach to mobile phone usage at school by students. Some allow it, some don’t. According to the NSW Department of Education: “Secondary schools retain discretion to opt into the restriction or implement an approach that best suits their circumstances and the needs of their diverse communities.”

Our petition proposes that there should be a consistent mobile phone policy from the NSW Department of Education, that restricts the use of smartphones at school during recess and lunch times, and this is enforced across all secondary schools.

This issue was recently highlighted in the North Shore Mums Facebook group, when one mum shared the struggles her Year 7 son was facing in making friends – because all the kids were on their phones at lunch. She posted:

“My 12.5 year old son is struggling to enjoy high school. He was always happy in primary school and is very active and sporty. But he says he hates high school as lunchtimes are so boring because everyone just is on their phones all the time. He wants to run around and play tip or soccer. I have told him there’s bound to be like-minded kids and he just hasn’t met them yet. Has anyone’s kids had the same struggles starting high school? And is that the case with all high schools? They just sit on their phones all lunchtime? Any advice for my little guy? I don’t want him to hate school!”

Students in secondary school spend many hours during class on laptops and tablets, studying, researching and completing assignments. So, when it comes to those essential breaks, it’s important that they are encouraged to move away from a device and have a break from screens.

Dr Michael Carr-Gregg is one of Australia’s highest profile psychologists, specialising in mental health and the use of technology. He agrees that the use of mobiles has caused major problems in socialisation, saying:

“The lockdowns, enforced social isolation and the attendant immersion in social media and video gaming exacerbated significant mental health problems among young people. Many schools are reporting ongoing major problems in socialisation which makes the removal of mobile devices from 1st bell to last, more important now than ever. Many schools who have taken this action report increased socialisation at recess and lunchtime and less distractions in class.” – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg

St Leo’s College is a local catholic school in Wahroonga, which recently tightened their mobile phone policy at school. They report seeing an increase in students talking to one another and establishing stronger connections.

“St Leo’s College recently introduced a revised Mobile Phone and Device Policy to address the ongoing concern around inappropriate phone/device usage during the school day, as well as to better assist with developing positive, interpersonal relationships between students. Since implementation, we have seen a significant decline in the number of phones and devices that have been confiscated due to unnecessary access.

We are very pleased to report that 7-12 students are more actively talking with each other and establishing more productive one-on-one connections. The wellbeing of our students is a priority at St Leo’s and this adjustment to students’ mobile phone-device usage is proving to be an effective measure in responding to developing peer/staff relations and improving overall student wellbeing.” – St Leo’s Catholic College, Wahroonga

The Heads Up Alliance agrees, seeing the real-time harm that smartphones and social media are causing, saying:

“As parents and teachers, we are seeing in real-time the harm that smartphones and social media are inflicting on our children, including in the school setting. Some academics point squarely to the distractions of mobile phones as being a significant contributing reason for falling educational outcomes in NSW. We are therefore of the strong opinion that immediate measures ought to be taken to restrict mobile phone use during recess and lunch at schools. Indeed we are somewhat dismayed to see that we are still years behind Victoria and other states on this issue.”

We’re not suggesting that phones should be banned altogether – as they are an important means of communication between parents and students. Also, some students might need their phone for a medical reason. We’re suggesting that they should be kept in school bags or lockers, and not allowed to be used during recess and lunch, when kids should be socialising, playing and active.

If you’d prefer your child to be socialising and playing at recess and lunch, not scrolling, gaming or going on social media, be sure to sign our petition to reduce the use during break times.


Thousands of parents agree that phones shouldn’t be allowed during breaks

Whilst signing the online petition, thousands of parents shared the reasons why they believe it is important that the Department of Education. Here is just a selection of those comments. Read the hundreds more here.

“Yes, bring back social skills development. Other high schools have implemented with great success apps that deactivate phones when entering school which force students to socialise and be active during lunch. They repeat increased morale and mental health in students. This should be across the board in NSW.” Megan

“Excessive use of mobile phones is impacting our children’s social skills and mental health. Children are exposed to inappropriate content at school, and those whose parents are taking a firm stand are ostracised by their peers. We are seeing the end result firsthand in our psychiatric practice. There is no place for mobile phones at school.” – Jen

“I’m a high school teacher & work across many schools in Sydney. There is a lot of truth in this statement & I agree a consistent policy should be enforced.” Shauna

“It depresses me beyond words to think that kids are sitting on their phones all lunch, instead of talking to each other, laughing, running around playing games and exercising! Kids have enough screen time at home as it is but they don’t have the self control to regulate it yet, that’s where we need to step in and help kids manage their screen time before it becomes an unhealthy addiction.” –  Natasha

“I don’t believe there is a place in any school for mobile phones. If they need them to communicate with parents, of course but they shouldn’t be common place in the school yard.” – Michele

“I could not agree with this suggestion more! Such an important issue that needs to be addressed. Kids should be moving during their breaks at school. This may be the only opportunity for some children who have full screen access at home!” – Nicola

“It’s time to be consistent. Unless phones are needed for class work they need to be out of reach, especially at break times” – Nina

“Students should talk to each other instead of playing on their phones during recess and lunch. Maybe even be bored enough to kick a ball!”- Christine

“It is a significant step to ensure our children’s mental health, emotional wellbeing and social connections.”- Nicky

“I’m actually shocked that this isn’t already a blanket policy. Kids should not be on devices at school. We are causing a huge social issue if we don’t do something now.” – Ciara

“Our kids are becoming more and more socially reclusive, unfit and unhappy with endless screen time. Big NO to phones at school.”- Patricia

“This should be a no-thinking required decision. Kids need to be socialising not buried in their phones.” – Wendy

“This is important for kids to have fine socialising skills and are better equipped to navigate complex relationships by learning at this stage in their life. We are paying expensive private schools fees to send our child to a school that locks phones in for the day. It would be great to streamline policy to create one system for all.”- Kylie

“At this age children are progressing through developmental years forming habits they will use as an adult. If students avoid each other socially. How will they be able to tackle challenges in their own lives where they don’t know how to build relationships to support them and grow?”- Graeme

“I am all for our children learning to live their lives with phones, however I also believe that forced reprieve is also important. Easier for us parents to implement this with our children when the whole school community is doing the same.”- Jo

“I am a parent of a year 7 student and am shocked at how much texting and social media is going on during school hours.”- Rachel

“This technology is addictive and prevents kids from enjoying their childhood and using the time with peers to form proper friendships. It makes kids escape from “real life” instead of living in it. I have no issue with kids needing phone for safe commuting and after school activities, but I have specifically chosen schools for my kids where phones are put into a locker at 9 and collected at 3.”- Geraldine

“Mobile phones are not really phones but internet connected devices with access to endless possibilities of content. When at school my child is in the care of the Dept. The Dept cannot possibly be fulfilling that duty of care when they are allowing possible access to pornographic or disturbing content. In addition the NSW Government is encouraging physical activity out of school (active kids school vouchers) whilst discouraging it at school by allowing mobile phones. Children need to socialise, play games and chat there is no need for mobile phones at school.” – Samantha

“I am a psychotherapist working with young women with eating disorders and addictions – teens are using phones for emotional regulation when they should be using relationships. Some are having panic attacks when i ask them to put them in their car or bag during therapy. Ban phones in schools ASAP – NSW DOE is contributing to addiction and a myriad of other mental health concerns.”- Jodie Blake

“I can resonate with this. My son is in year 7 and socialising would not be possible at recess and lunch without a mobile so we caved in. He is a really sporty kid but it makes me sad that the only way to “play” at school is via a device. ☹️”- Claire

“Mobile phones should not be allowed at any school in NSW, during any school time by the students. We need to do better by the students, they need to also learn basic interpersonal skills which will be assisted by removing these addictive phones altogether from Schools.”- Shaun

“Overuse of mobile phones (and digital technology in general) can change the brain, leading to symptoms mimicking ADHD and affects social skills development enough to seem like autism. Or just make kids less empathetic in general. I have both diagnosis btw. So I think phones should just be used as a tool and not make the person become a tool. This is why I’m signing the petition.”- Sanjay

This petition has received a lot of media attention – featuring on Channel 10’s The Project, Nine Honey Parenting, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Kids NewsEducation Review, to name but a few.


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