Limiting the use of mobile phones in classrooms good for young adults

Centre for Digital Wellbeing welcomes the announcement by the NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns of NSW Labor’s commitment to restrict the use of mobile phones in NSW public high school classrooms and introducing an e‑safety and digital literacy program, if elected.

We welcome the thoughtful and comprehensive nature of the digital literacy and wellbeing strategy proposed by the NSW Opposition Leader. Focusing on online ethical behaviours, critical thinking skills and data privacy for children is a critical step in the right direction.

Why is the the digital literacy program the best move?

Recent research suggests that younger individuals may be more vulnerable to potential negative impacts of social media given the emphasis on social connectedness during adolescence. This demonstrates the need for a focused and supportive policy response.

The restriction on the use of mobile phones, coupled with the broader strategy, will be grounded in the evidence-based world’s best practice and will seek to address cyberbullying, reduce distractions and assist students to learn the skills they need for a digital world.

We know that tech and social media can have detrimental impacts on developing minds, with research identifying strong correlations between extensive use of tech and increased depression, anxiety and suicidal ideations. Students have been fully immersed in technology throughout their lifetimes. This strategy will encourage students to learn in a supportive and focused classroom environment and to develop a healthy relationship with technology.

How can smartphones encourage positive learning?

Psychologist, creator of Digital Nutrition, and member of the Centre for Digital Wellbeing Advisory Council, Jocelyn Brewer, supports creating a clear framework for the use of smartphones in classrooms to encourage positive learning habits among young people:

“With more immersive tech like Web3 and the metaverse on their way, it is vital that govts commit to explicit instruction of the skills that support healthier use of digital tech. By focusing on digital and media literacy, we are equipping young people with critical, emerging skills that will be required for success in a highly tech‑saturated/web3 world,” Ms Brewer said.

“We are empowering children to report misinformation, to understand the design of tech that drives unhealthy habits, and to adopt ethical behaviours in online spaces will be critical.”

Carla Wilshire OAM is a council member at the Centre for Digital Wellbeing.