A SPECIALISED mobile phone locker aimed at boosting productivity and curbing student phone addiction could heap further pressure on school budgets, Western Australia’s teacher union warns.
Bill Brown began working on the 30-door storage locker in January last year because he could see mobile phone use becoming increasingly problematic in schools and workplaces – especially with some people developing an addiction to their portable screens.
“Some employees have them for work but it’s not the bulk of the workforce,” he said.
“I wanted to make a difference. I could see mobile phones were becoming very addictive … people were oblivious to what’s around them.”
Mr Brown believes removing and storing mobile phones away from the classroom will allow children to better communicate face-to-face, reduce cyber bullying and provide more “technology-free” time.
He also pointed to research into mobile phone use affecting people’s sleeping habits, eyesight, mental health and attention span.
University academic Ralph Martins, who specialises in Alzheimers disease, said the locker was a good idea for certain settings, such as schools, labs and construction sites.
“In terms of safety, it does make sense,” he said.
State School Teachers Union president Pat Byrne agreed the inappropriate use of mobile phones in classrooms continued to be a disruption but expressed concern about the $750 cost.
“The introduction of phone lockers will not only be a further impost on school budgets but is likely to result in an additional layer of checking and follow up for teachers, further distracting them from their teaching roles,” she said.
Unions WA secretary Meredith Hammat said employers should use common sense and recognise that employees may need reasonable access to mobiles if they care for young children or older relatives.
“There are some jobs that are physically onerous, potentially dangerous or that require high standards of hygiene where it may be reasonable to limit access to personal items such as a mobile phone,” she said.
United Voice WA assistant secretary Pat O’Donnell said most workplaces already had mobile phone policies.
“Employers should consider ways to boost productivity that motivate staff and boost morale, rather than enforcing restrictions on unnecessary issues,” he said.