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Today mobile phones have become so much more than they used to be. They are now hi-tech computers in our pockets with operating systems, that allow us to use supporting planners such as schedules, to take pictures with built-in cameras and relax through the use of entertainment systems and audio-video capabilities, all within the palm of our hands. People use mobile phones to keep in touch with family and friends and thanks to internet connectivity, users can now browse the web to its fullest potential wherever they may be. However, the role of mobile phones in educational settings needs to be closely examined, as educators strive to incorporate mobile learning devices in the classroom. Consequently, schools not only need to assess their school curriculums but also recognise the power in digital devices to engage, enable and empower the millennial generation. The Victorian and New South Wales government proposed to education ministers of making a ban for the use of mobile phones to be in effect during classroom hours. The ban was encouraged as a plan to combat negative behaviours being attributed through the use of mobile phones. Mobile phone use should not be allowed in schools as it contributes to creating class distractions, promotes cyberbullying and encourages the normalisation of cheating.
The use of mobile phones in the class environment can distract students’ learning. These distractions are caused by the excessive use and checking of social media, texting of friends and playing games. When students play on their phones during class, it has the potential to also distract other students who are trying to learn. This can further cause disruptions in the classroom, as teachers are constantly telling students to turn their mobile phones off.
In Australia, school teachers have to face challenges with mobile phone use. A survey done by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, states that students spend more than 11 times a day checking their phones. Specifically, texting, emailing, surfing the web, checking social media and even playing games. These findings show the detrimental impact and distracting nature mobile phones have when in students’ possession. “Regrettably teachers and school administrators end up dealing with issues that disrupt the school environment generated by behaviours that occurred outside of the school setting” (Trim, 2010). This quote shows how teachers are negatively impacted by students using mobile phones for other purposes other than school productivity.
Moreover, there is new research to suggest using electronic devices in the classroom can lower students’ grades. This can drastically affect the percentage of students that are currently failing subjects due to negligence and the distraction in their pockets. This in turn also affects other students enrolled in the same class as the device-users, due to the distracting environment they are made subject to, these students score lower even though they did use a device during class.
Mobile Phone use in schools has had majorly increasing links towards cyberbullying. According to Smith et al. (2008), ‘Cyberbullying, is an aggressive intentional act carried out by a group or individual, using electronic forms of contact, repeatedly and overtime against a victim who cannot easily defend him or herself.’ Students attempt this by texting hurtful messages, sending threatening pictures and videos including happy slapping (a group of people assaulting a stranger at random while filming the incident on a mobile phone). ‘Cyberbullying in school-aged children are on the rise’, (Selwyn, 2019, p. 2). ‘The proof of this that cyberbullying rates have increased among the school-aged group (12-17 yrs)’.
A survey from the ‘Tell Them From Me’ (NSW Government website), shows that in 2018, approximately 15% of NSW government secondary school students surveyed reported having experienced cyberbullying one or more times in the past four weeks. These statistics reveal the damaging potential of mobile phone use and how can they are used for wrong, hurtful purposes contributing to the huge, complex and major issue that is cyberbullying.
Trim (2010) states; ‘while the sharing of inappropriate pictures has been around since the invention of the camera, mobile phones make it easier for photos to be quickly shared with hundreds through direct messaging and then uploaded to social networking sites’. This in practise can be identified as ‘Sexting’ in today’s youth. It involves students sending nude photos of known or unknown people to other phone users. Issues like Sexting are just one of the many ways students implement mobile phones for negative purposes.
Furthermore, mobile phones can lead to students cheating. Realistically when students have mobile phones in their possession during a test, it serves as a temptation for the opportunity to cheat by searching for answers which can be so easily attained. Teachers can often be challenged when trying to identify when this is occurring. According to a Pew Research Center study, 35% of teenagers admit to using their mobile phones to cheat on tests. This alarming statistic reveals how easily and effortlessly students can carry out these actions during exams, by choosing to take easy options by searching for answers on their phone without getting caught.
According to BBC (2019), Candidates do not realise that the simple act of having a mobile phone on them (even if they are not actually using their phone), while taking an exam is a breach of the rules and therefore academic misconduct, which must be reported to the exam board. This goes to show how lightly students regard cheating and how easy it is to breach the law. Cheating in most schools has become normalised. Many students do not see getting answers by texting as academic misconduct. ‘Moreover, cheating practices have made schools more anxious to favour the use of mobile phones’.
Overall banning mobile phone use in schools alone will not be enough to fully prevent cyberbullying, eliminate class distraction and end cheating. Students must be well educated about how to use mobile phones responsibly and know that these actions are immoral and unlawful acts that must have consequences, legal or otherwise to help correct unacceptable behaviours.
A solution that the schools of Victoria and New South Wales should consider is to provide more education about the impacts of cyberbullying and criminal law. The effects of classroom distractions on a student’s ability and how cheating is helping no one to learn. Also, schools must have strict rules about mobile phone use in the classroom. This can help teachers raise awareness of the ongoing problems happening around schools. They can also inform students that it is acceptable to report to them if they ever feel threatened or rejected by peers.
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