Helena College: high school moves to ban mobile phones

Helena College Principal Ian Lyons will introduce a new student mobile phone use policy at the senior school for 2018. The school feels that mobile phones are too much of a distraction for students during the school day. Photo: David Baylis
Helena College Principal Ian Lyons will introduce a new student mobile phone use policy at the senior school for 2018. The school feels that mobile phones are too much of a distraction for students during the school day. Photo: David Baylis

STUDENTS heading back to the classroom next week at an independent high school in Glen Forrest will be banned from using their mobile phones during school hours.

Helena College principal Ian Lyons said students will be allowed to bring their phones to school, but not allowed to get them out of their locker at any time until they leave, even during breaks.

Mr Lyons said banning the devices was about improving student safety and enhancing focus.

“We have around 500 phones at school and we have no control over the content children can view on them,” he said.

“If a child gets onto an inappropriate website on their laptop we have the software to block and close the site.

“But we can’t stop students from accessing websites such as YouTube at recess and lunch.

“This is the time when students are most vulnerable and least supervised and this is when they are potentially accessing the most inappropriate sites.

“We can limit this exposure by saying phones go in their locker from 8.30am until 3.15pm.”

Director of Upper School Craig Hillman added mobile phones were a seductive distraction from learning.

“I had a student’s phone on my desk while he was doing private study and in just one hour it buzzed with 14 Snapchat notifications,” he said.

“How are students meant to do any work when they reply to each notification?

“They are meant to be engaged in school work so by removing mobiles from the classroom we are creating an even playing field.

“This policy is all about bringing the use of mobile phones back into balance because it had visibly swung out of control.”

Mr Lyons was confident the new policy would increase social interactions between students.

“Every day I see students sitting around during their breaks communicating to each other via text message instead of talking to each other,” he said.

“We want to improve socialisation between students and part of the deal is that kids will stop sending photos of their lunch to each other or sending requests home on what they would like for dinner.

“There was a deafening silence when the policy was announced at assembly.

“But it is about better safety for children during breaks and keeping kids more focused in the classroom.

“The phone is very distracting and for many it is almost impossible not to respond to messages and notifications.

“We need to instil in kids its okay not to respond immediately.”

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