In an Australian first that got everyone talking, the state government banned mobile phones in SA schools from term 3, 2023. Now the first report on the policy has been released, giving it top marks for boosting student safety.
The stats speak volumes
Let’s talk numbers. In the second half of the 2023 school year, incidents of schoolyard brawls in South Australia plummeted by a massive 29 per cent compared to the same period in 2022. That’s a drop from 319 to 228 reported cases of physical altercations – think punches and kicks – among high school students.
These figures show that cutting mobile phones out of the educational equation equals a safer, less aggressive school environment.
The “off and away” revolution
The state government’s “off and away” policy, fully implemented from term 3 of 2023, has been more than just a rule – it’s been a cultural shift. Initially focused on cutting down classroom distractions and tackling the menace of bullying, the ban is having flow-on effects that have made the whole high school experience better for many students.
Since the ban, teachers have observed a significant uptick in physical activities and club participation during breaks. Principals have talked about the big change in schoolyard behaviour, with students now more engaged in real-world interactions, like playing and chatting, rather than being glued to their screens.
National spotlight on SA success
The success of the ban here in South Australia has been watched closely interstate, with the NSW government recently announcing its own school phone ban. It’s also put the issue on the national agenda. Thanks to the SA success, all education ministers recently committed to ban, restrict or manage the use of mobile phones in government schools nationwide.
The nuts and bolts of the policy
SA’s policy is thorough – during school hours, including breaks and excursions, all public high school students must either switch off their devices or put them in flight mode. That means not just mobile phones, but also all personal devices with internet connection capability including tablets and smart watches.
But it’s not just about enforcement. The state government is backing this initiative with $515,000 in funding for schools’ practical needs like pouches and lockers. And it’s not a blanket ban – school-owned tech and devices under “bring your own device” programs aren’t affected.
Want more info?We go in-depth on everything you need to know about the mobile phone ban, and explore the debate that surrounded the policy. If you want some inspiration for your own digital detox, here’s the research into how smartphones negatively impact learning, creativity and mental health.