Victoria's school phone ban labelled ‘idiotic’
A move by the Victorian Government to ban mobile phone use in public schools has been branded "idiotic" and "total ignorance".
As of next year, students will no longer be able to use their phones during school hours following Education Minister James Merlino's push to stop cyber-bullying and reduce classroom distraction.
"This will remove a major distraction from our classrooms so that teachers can teach and students can learn in a more focused, positive and supported environment," Mr Merino said in a statement.
"Half of all young people have experienced cyber-bullying. By banning mobiles we can stop it at the school gate."
BACKLASH AGAINST THE BAN
But while many support the move, saying "it's about bloody time" and "the right thing to do", others including teachers and parents have vented their frustration and stance against it.
"As a teacher I don't agree with this move. Phones can be a very handy pedagogical tool, and they need to learn how to use them in a safe manner," one woman said in a Facebook post on the ban.
"This is a shortsighted reactionary step that will ultimately do nothing to prevent cyber-bullying."
Another Facebook user described the ban as "total ignorance" from the State Government, saying "there are many state schools in Victoria that uses the smartphone as an educational aid and communication tool between the students and the school".
A mother-of-two also agreed, adding her two girls who are in high school rely on their phones for study schedules and school and exam timetables.
"Pretty much everything is online, which is why they have their phones and data at school," she said.
Students will be forced to switch off their phones and store them in lockers until the final bell - and in the case of an emergency, parents or guardians can reach their child by calling the school.
The only exceptions to the ban will be where students use phones to monitor health conditions, or where teachers instruct students to bring their phone for a particular classroom activity.
"Idiotic - and for those saying 'We never had them when I was a kid', nope you didn't, you were raised entirely differently and you adapt to your environment," another outraged Facebook user said, adding she doesn't support the ban "one bit".
"Mobile phones have been around our kids environments for a while now, it's something they use as a tool on a daily basis," she said.
"I leave home at 6am for work and my kids get up ready and bus it to school - having a phone to call me when they arrive for school doesn't keep them any safer, but it stops me from worrying that they have arrived, the same for their trip home … a total ban is idiotic."
'MOBILE PHONES ENABLE CYBER-BULLYING'
Mr Merlino said schools embraced technology in the classroom and the Government wanted kids to be digitally literate, but mobile phones "enable" cyber-bullying.
He explainedteachers were constantly asking kids to put their phones away, and he called the decision to ban them during school hours, including lunch and recess, "common sense".
He said teachers wanted kids talking to each other in the schoolyard, not checking their phones, the ABC reported.
"Teachers are constantly asking kids to put their phones away. This is common sense. It's not going to (absolutely) resolve cyber-bullying, but it will make a big difference," he said.
"We cannot stamp it out. It is going to occur.
"But we can take some real steps to reduce the level of bullying."
In February 2018, ahead of the November state election, the Liberals announced a policy of banning students from using phones in classrooms.
At the time the Andrews government said bans were the decision of individual schools.
"I guess policy imitation is the greatest form of flattery," former Liberal leader Matthew Guy tweeted on Tuesday night.
A number of private schools have already banned the use of phones, and McKinnon Secondary School, a government school in Melbourne's bayside, has enforced a ban since last year.
Principal Pitsa Binnion told the ABC she believed students at the school had become more entrenched in their studies as a result.
"Our students are more focused learners in the classroom without this distraction," she said.