Secondary School students will no longer be permitted to use their mobile phones unsupervised during school hours at Matthew Flinders Anglican College in Buderim to encourage students to ‘look up, not down’.
Principal Stuart Meade said the new policy will see Flinders students from Years 7 to 12 put their phones away during school hours to enable them to experience healthy interactions, build friendships and engage in campus life.
The College has no expectation for students to have a mobile phone in class, however, phone use in class is by express permission of the teacher in charge and restricted to those activities which directly enhance learning outcomes.
Mobile phones are already not permitted in the College’s Primary School unless absolutely necessary and, in which case, an agreement must be signed by parents outlining student use of the phone.
Mr Meade said many students, teachers and parents at Flinders supported the new policy in the Secondary School as a positive step that would enable students to experience the fullness of life on campus in real time, without distraction.
“The bottom line is that we want our College community to feel the benefits of ‘looking up, not down’ and our students are already supportive of this policy,” Mr Meade said.
“I believe there is a place for mobile technologies in education,” he said, “however, there is also an increased focus in today’s world on the need for effective verbal and visual communication, developing relationships and being ‘present’ with those around you.
“There is plenty of research showing that phone use in schools has the potential to disrupt student wellbeing and concentration through issues of cyberbullying, exposure to harmful material, mental and physical health and disruption of school work.
“We are not trying to ruin students’ social lives with these restrictions. There are still many hours when students are not at school and their phone use is at the discretion of others.
“During school hours, our students’ wellbeing, safety and academic potential is of utmost importance, and we believe this new policy is a healthy step forward for our College community.”
Mr Meade said the policy to supervise the use of mobile phones during school hours was not about having boxes of confiscated phones in the main administration office.
“There will be gentle reminders as we implement the guidelines; however, if students fail to heed the requests from their teachers, we may need to deny them access to their phones for a period of time,” he said.
The use of other digital devices such as laptops and iPads will also not be permitted during break times at Flinders unless used in dedicated learning spaces such as the College libraries or new Digital Zone - a state-of-the-art learning space for students to develop and explore technology, new media, film and tv projects.
Flinders’ new mobile phone policy is in line with a growing push in Australia to restrict mobile phone use at school.
Danielle Einstein, clinical psychologist and honorary associate at the University of Sydney and Department of Psychology, Macquarie University, noted in an interview with ABC News last year  that mobile phones are distracting, anxiety-inducing and addictive.
Einstein said that phones are used at the expense of face-to-face communications and research shows that apps and messages prompt dopamine release, thus creating addiction.
Einstein also said it has been shown that having a smart phone within reach reduces working memory capacity and fluid intelligence.
Mr Meade said Flinders’ new policy will hopefully improve students’ ability to focus on academics, develop friendships and embrace the many co-curricular opportunities that are offered to all students as part of College life.
Cover image: Flinders Head of Middle School Mr Sam Huckstep with students