Banning mobile phones in schools: A health study

Posted 12 Mar 2024
Does banning mobile phones in South Australian secondary schools improve the health of young people?

Flinders University Associate Professor Daniel King is adding a South Australian perspective to growing international research into the outcomes of banning phones in schools, including the impacts on mental health, cyberbullying, and academic engagement.

 Last year, the South Australian Government mandated a policy to restrict phones in public secondary schools.

A/Prof King has been awarded a Flinderds Foundation Health Seed Grant to study more than 1,200 students across seven schools, to test the difference between schools who already had a self-imposed mobile phone ban in place, versus schools who introduced the ban following the mandate.

“Research in this area is limited, but there is an expectation that schools that introduce the ban will experience a significant improvement in health outcomes, including improved mental health, school connectedness, academic engagement, and decreased cyberbullying,” A/Prof King explains.

“Preliminary international evidence indicates that bans may result in positive outcomes in academic results for certain student groups, and may help to reduce school bullying, however there is a need to directly evaluate the potential effects of the ban in the South Australian context.

 “The current mobile phone ban in SA schools provides a unique opportunity to gather much needed health and academic data to inform parents, schools, and policymakers on the role of technology in schools.”

It is estimated that about 94 per cent of Australians between the ages of 14 and 17 years have a smart phone, with usage up to 40 hours a week, with most of this time spent on social media.

 “Although online-enabled digital devices can have some benefits, particularly as educational tools, many parents, teachers, and school communities have expressed concern over unregulated mobile phones in schools and their impact on student wellbeing and academic performance,” A/Prof King says.

“Primary issues of concern relate to overuse and compulsive behaviours, cyberbullying, access to explicit or inappropriate online material, cybersecurity and privacy risks, decreased face-to-face social interaction, distraction from school activities, and general health effects, including negative effects on sleep, diet, and physical exercise.”

A/Prof King is currently working with his team to publish the study findings.

This project is one of 31 exciting new health and medical research projects to receive funding in Flinders Foundation’s annual health seed grant thanks to donations from generous individuals and funds raised by supporters and organisations.

Project Title: Evaluating adolescent health consequences of the SA mobile phone ban in secondary schools

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