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Reports of cyberbullying have clearly gone up among school-aged children and young people over the past ten years, but the nature and precedents of cyberbullying are complex.Research suggests there is a large overlap between cyberbullying and traditional forms of bullying, which wouldn’t then follow that digital devices are somehow causing these behaviours.
Despite this, we also found instances of students using smartphones for a range of beneficial purposes – from impromptu information seeking to live-streaming lessons for sick classmates.
These benefits are also reflected in classroom studies elsewhere in the world.
Neil Selwyn receives research funding from the Australian Research Council, Australian Government Office of Learning and Teaching (OLT), Australian Communications Consumer Action Network & Au DA Foundation.
Victorian education minister James Merlino’s announcement mobile phones will be banned for all students at state primary and secondary schools is certainly a bold move.
There is also a growing literature exploring the links between digital devices and classroom distractions.
The presence of phones in the classroom is certainly found to be a source of multi-tasking among students of all ages – some of which can be educationally relevant and much of which might not.Research from Stanford University has demonstrated, for instance, that with proper support and preparation, teachers in even the most challenging schools can “build on the ways students already use technology outside of school to help them learn in the classroom”.There is now a whole academic field known as “m-Learning” where researchers have explored the pedagogical and learning advantages of using mobile devices (including phones) in lessons.In case of an emergency, parents or guardians can reach their child by calling the school.The minister said in a statement: Whether to allow student use of mobile phones in school is certainly a hot topic in education.But while banning phones from classrooms, and from school altogether, might seem sensible, there are number of reasons to be cautious.It’s clear we need to carefully consider how we want to make use of digital devices being brought into schools.The Victorian announcement follows a French government ban on mobiles in school in 2018.Debates on the issue are also taking place in Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom.All told, the sense from academic literature is that the realities of smartphone use in classrooms are complex and decidedly messy.Our own research into how smartphones are being used in Victorian classrooms highlighted the difficulties teachers face in policing student use (what some teachers described as requiring “five minutes of firefighting” at the beginning of every lesson).