NSW Department of Education

Mobile devices in schools

For teachers
For parents
For students

Key message

The department’s review into the use of mobile devices in schools was completed in 2018. Students, teachers and parents will all have a role to play in shaping the future of smartphones in schools.

The review into mobile device use in schools identified several benefits and challenges that come with smartphones and other mobile devices. Students, teachers and parents all contributed to the review, which made several recommendations. The department is currently working on a full response to the review, but everyone can take an active part in ensuring that their school has a positive policy on mobile device use.

Students

Many students in the review acknowledged that mobile devices could be sources of distraction during class time. Both parents and students noted that mobile devices were useful methods of family communication, especially for last-minute changes of plan. Many students expressed frustration that teachers did not consistently apply their school’s policy.

To help schools develop mobile device use policies, students can:

  • Use their devices responsibly. Many of the more restrictive policies in schools come about in response to repeated misuse of technology by students in class.
  • Know their school’s procedures relating to the use of mobile devices, and advocate directly to the administration for proposed changes.

Teachers

Many teachers who contributed to the review identified concerns around smartphone use during class, specifically that students were distracted by social media and expected to be able to listen to music at all times.

Both teachers and students noted that school rules around mobile device use were often enforced differently between classes, which was a source of frustration for teachers and confusing for students.

Two recommendations for teachers that can be put into practice immediately are:

  • Consult with the school administration to develop consistent procedures for implementing the NSW Department of Education's policy relating to the student use of mobile devices.
  • Model appropriate device use for students. Some students noted that teachers would sometimes get distracted by text messages in class. If the rule for students is that devices should be turned off and out of sight, students should not see their teacher’s phone in class either.

Parents

Mobile devices are a useful way to communicate quickly with your children in emergencies, but both schools and students noted in the review that the need for this was rare. Parents expressed concern about the potential misuse of mobile devices during school that could disrupt learning or make the environment less safe for students.

To help schools develop and use effective mobile device policies, parents can:

  • Make sure that they know how to get in touch with the school and communicate with their children for non-emergencies. If a student needs to leave school early, for example, the school must know why before it happens, and the parent or carer should be the one to tell the school.
  • Be familiar with the school’s procedures relating to the use of mobile devices and talk to the school if they have any questions about the school rules around mobile devices.

Top tips

Additional resources

Curriculum and syllabus links

References

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