Spotlight On: Device Detox

13 October 2023


This article first appeared in Queenwood Weekly News on Friday 13 October 2023.

The opportunity to go on a school camp is one filled with excitement and possibility. School camps encompass a diverse array of activities and new encounters, culminating in an invigorating and enriching experience for students. These moments often become cherished memories. Many of the activities featured in our camps are distinct from everyday life, presenting challenges that require students to transcend their comfort zones and persevere. These challenges serve as a catalyst for the development of invaluable character traits, such as resilience, teamwork, and leadership. School camps prioritise personal growth and the cultivation of a lasting sense of achievement that can wield a profound positive influence. Research on Significant Life Experiences underscores the role of formative events like school camps in shaping an individual's worldview, influencing their career choices, where they choose to eventually live and how they raise their own children.

One of the most significant benefits of School Camp is device detox. In an era where screens have entrenched themselves in students' lives, school camps offer a departure from this digital dependency and provide a rapid dose of autonomy and the opportunity to look up and out. Birdsong replaces earbuds full of music, screens are swapped for campfires, the view of a mountain or ocean and young eyes are retrained to look beyond 60cm.

Queenwood is no different to schools all over the world who are experiencing the same challenging behaviours from their students in relation to mobile phone usage. Since 2018, we have strictly enforced a no-devices-in-the-playground policy, putting us ahead of many other schools in addressing this issue. We have continued to engage with the ever-growing body of research, we seek feedback from staff and students, we listen to parent concerns and monitor what is going on in the greater community.

This week the NSW Government banned phone use in all public high schools. Last term we reminded girls in the Senior School that there would be a zero-tolerance approach to phones being carried on their person while they were at school and reinforced the School’s expectations regarding mobile phones and smart watches.

According to Tom Bennett, Independent Behaviour Advisor for the Department for Education in the UK to make a mobile phone ban there are some key behaviours that schools must carry out consistently including

  • Communicating with students, staff and parents why we are doing it
  • Confiscate phones (and smart watches) on sight
  • Have a consistent message to students when confiscating the phone (or smart watch)
  • Support the staff member confiscating the phone (or smart watch)
  • Ensure that sanctions apply for repeat offenders or those that ignore the rule

Banning phones is not without issues. Many students rely on them to purchase food from the canteen and some students require them to monitor health issues. We are confident that families can provide their daughters with alternatives to purchasing food, whether that be providing them with a physical card, cash or teaching their daughters how to make and pack their own recess and lunch. Staff will continue to authorise the use of a phone for health, wellbeing or educational needs as required.

The expectations around mobile phones (and smart watches) have been reiterated to students on multiple occasions. It is the expectation that all Senior School students will place their mobile phone in their locker or give it to their class teacher in the Junior School, at the beginning of the day. Parents can contact the Junior and Senior reception if they need to relay a message to their daughters, and students can use the same channels to reach their parents.

Queenwood has maintained a longstanding belief that restricting mobile phone usage during school hours fosters an environment where teachers and students can concentrate on teaching and learning without interruptions. This policy also mitigates issues like cyberbullying, excessive social media usage, and the inappropriate capture of photos and videos on school grounds.

As a community we can choose whether to embrace, ban, or regulate new technologies, and we can choose to change our minds when the facts change. We should make those choices based on our values and evidence, not on the assumption that all technology will improve our lives and that young people have the skills, self-control and desire to regulate their behaviour.