Mobile phone usage for kids is an ongoing issue that parents struggle with everyday. But if there’s one place that smartphones shouldn’t be allowed, it’s during recess and lunch at school. Sign our petition to ensure that all schools in NSW require phones to be kept in the child’s bag or locker during school hours.
Schools across NSW have an inconsistent approach to mobile phone usage at school by students. Some schools allow mobile phones to be used throughout the day, and many don’t. But there really needs to be a consistent approach to the issue of smartphone usage in schools, with a policy enforced by the NSW Department of Education. It should not be up to the discretion of the Principal or individual school to allow phone usage during recess and lunch.
Sure, allow children to take their phones to school in case parents needs to get in touch for transport arrangements or if they have medical conditions that require them… but keep them in their school bags or lockers during breaks to be only used if needed.
Don’t allow them use them at recess and lunch to scroll, game or make TikToks, when kids should be chatting with friends, playing handball, basketball, table tennis… or whatever active play is possible.
This issue was raised in the North Shore Mums Facebook group, by Katie. She posted:
My 12.5yr 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!
Many schools already don’t allow mobiles at school
Many schools have already recognised the mobile phone use throughout the day is detrimental to students social, physical and mental wellbeing, and have banned them during the day.
Here are some experiences from our members.
- “My son’s school do not allow students to touch personal mobiles or devices during school hours. If there is an emergency the school will be contacted. Hence my child participates in physical activity at lunch time.” – Susan
- “Phones in box and smart watches in a box as they enter the classroom. They can be collected at the end of the day.” – Gillian
- “No phone used allowed at my sons high school between first bell and last bell. The boys spend their lunchtimes playing basketball, table tennis, running on the ovals, going to the library, special interest groups (art, coding etc) and lining up at the canteen and eating.” – Juliette
- “My daughter’s school has a no phone policy and works very well. I don’t know why all schools wouldn’t have this.” – Louise
- “All the research is saying that the use of social media and unsupervised access to technology can be very harmful to children. It seems like a no brainer that phones should not be allowed at school. This would limit avenues of bullying, sexual exploitation, exposure to porn PLUS protect their developing brains and the Very important growth of relationships where they learn communication and compassion! – Annette
- “My daughter’s school brought in no phone at all during school day policy. It really changed how they interacted – it was a great change, particularly at lunchtimes. – Christy
Some schools allow smartphones to be used throughout the day
Unfortunately, however, there are many schools who allow unrestricted access to mobile phones at recess and lunch, which has huge impact on the behaviour in the playground. Rather than chatting and playing, kids are retreating to their screens.
- “This was my son last year! He was miserable and a shadow of himself. We have moved schools from a public high school to an independent school this year and he couldn’t be happier, table tennis and soccer at lunch!” – Belinda
- “This is a common problem. I wish technology was banned during recess and lunch to promote real life socialising not online socialising.” – Annette
- “We are still in primary and didn’t even consider this. I just checked our local public high school mobile phone policy and it allows phones during lunch and recess. Thats not ideal. I think a blanket policy needs to be considered and discussed by the department of education and get the input from teachers and principals on what would work best.” – Kate
- “I would love to see the ban of phones in public high schools. However it is a final direction/decision from the principal. Unfortunately, it gets in the too hard basket to enforce (I know it can be done. I’ve seen it at other schools) and there is always the minority who will complain.” – Vanessa
Local teachers agree that mobile phones shouldn’t be allowed at school
- “I’m a high school teacher and I can’t stress enough how difficult it is to teach at a school with no solid mobile phone policy. The amount of distraction that phones cause is profound. It not only impacts on student focus in classroom, but also their socialisation during break times. I currently work at a school with a strict mobile phone policy. If students wish to bring a phone to school, they sign their phone into their home room teachers lockbox or locked desk drawer, and receive it back at the end of the day. I cannot tell you how much this improves the overall well-being of students at school. Zero distractions in class and wonderful socialisation and games at lunch and recess.”
- “Students at the school I work at are not permitted phones in the school day. They can check at lunch and recess but they are not supposed to take them away from their lockers. It’s had a really good impact on social behaviours, also a lot of the high schoolers play handball, basketball, soccer etc at lunch time. I’d be talking to P&C as well, and I think this should be a blanket policy.”
Should there be opportunity for the school to apply discretion or exemptions?
Of course, whilst we don’t want our kids to spend their entire time scrolling, gaming or making TikToks at recess and lunch, there should be the opportunity for the school to assess individual circumstances – medical needs, like managing diabetes, mental health issues or other special needs.
“As with any proposal, there has to be latitude to allow some nuancing to support kids whose needs go beyond the ‘typical’. I do appreciate the spirit behind this petition & recognise that unfettered phone access can cause all sorts of issues at school. There will need to be exemptions for kids who actually do need their phone to get through the school day. An example would be any student who relies on assistive technology or those who might be situationally mute. Some sort of explicit language that simply recognises the need for respectful exemptions would be important. This might not seem like a “big deal” to parents who don’t have disabled kids or whose kids don’t have more complex communication needs, but it is actually a very big deal to those who do. It’s just really important that anytime we talk about “whole school” or “whole state/district” policies, we also consider the experiences and needs of the most marginalised students (which often includes disabled students, amongst others).” – Kirsten
We need a policy that addresses the issue of smartphone use at school
After seeing what a huge issue this is for families across the North Shore, we decided that this issue really needs the attention of the NSW Department of Education. There needs to be a policy enforced that dictates that smartphones should not be allowed at school during recess and lunch time. Of course, students should be allowed to take phones for communication before and after school, but they should remain in the locker or bag throughout the day.
Whether your child’s school already has this rule in place, there are many schools that don’t.
Let’s bring this to the attention of the Minster for Education, Sarah Mitchell. Please sign the petition and share with parents to help get this on the agenda.