Opinion

Mobile phone ban small price to pay for classroom re-engagement

By Shepparton News

Yesterday's announcement that banning the use of mobile phones in schools will cost taxpayers $12.4 million, is a reminder that even sensible ideas have a price.

Victorian Education Minister James Merlino announced the ban in June and said it would come into effect in the first term of 2020.

At the time, Mr Merlino admitted the idea would not be a popular one, but it was a necessary step to contain classroom distractions and help avoid cyber-bullying.

However, the $12.4 million price tag for lockers and lockable pouches to store the phones during school hours may not be the only price we have to pay.

Is restricting the ability of students to contact their families while at school an infringement of their personal liberty?

Will the ban really help combat cyber-bullying, when it appears to occur most often outside school hours?

Does an outright ban fail to address the larger problem of responsible mobile phone usage?

Will enforcing the ban cause even more problems for teaching staff?

These are some of the arguments used by opponents of the ban and some of them are backed by numerous academic research papers.

Nevertheless, many parents and students themselves welcome a ban.

A Monash University survey of more than 2000 Australian adults found that 80 per cent supported banning phones in classrooms, while just under one third supported a complete ban during school hours.

Mobile phones are a recent technology, but they have become ubiquitous across all levels of society. Today, nobody knows how the hand-held device will develop as a source of valuable or trivial information in the future.

But for now, we must deal with a real and present problem in our schools — and an outright ban is a good way to start. The situation can be re-examined should digital platforms and human behaviour change.

For now, $12.4 million would seem a fair price to pay for re-engaging our young people in the classroom and going some way to help reduce bullying.