SNAPCHAT was snapped away in Daylesford classes for an Australian first, leaving students feeling a little nervous, lost and talking more in the yard.
Yondr pouches – those favoured by performers like American comedian Chris Rock for live gigs – were provided to Daylesford Secondary College students on Tuesday, locking up access to check their mobile phones and neutralising distraction. The only way to check social media like teenage favourite Snapchat or to text a friend was at the day’s end, unlocking the device on a base station.
The bold experiment comes as new data shows a third of young Australians admit to feeling anxious if unable to check their smartphones regularly. Findings in the Deakin University study reinforced how problematic smartphone use was a public health issue, including a lack of sleep.
While there were plenty of nerves and uncertainty among Daylesford students, it was a dream for teachers who had been looking forward to taking classes relatively uninterrupted.
Daylesford junior school captain Lucinda Lowe said carrying the pouch offered a sense of security, you knew where your phone was, but the hardest part was knowing you were unable to check it.
“It’s been really interesting. Lots of kids have been finding it really hard. Quite a few have people have been wandering around looking bored or like they don’t know what to do,” Ms Lowe said.
“There’s always people on Snapchat, who don’t want to do PE (physical education) class. But there has been a lot more concentration in other classes.”
Ms Lowe said students spoke about prevalent social media dangers, like cyber bullying and, at the extreme, suicide. She said one of the big issues was endless messaging. While Ms Lowe does not keep a phone in her room at night, it was not unusual to wake up to messages from friends sent at 1am.
Deakin University psychologist Sharon Horwood said there were multiple factors playing into what was a super addictive device.
Dr Horwood said research into smartphone addiction was new in scientific terms but smartphone use was already reaching saturation point. About 94 per cent of Australian teenagers have their own smart phone and spend, on average, 44 hours a week in front of their screens.
Dr Horwood said it was imperative to better understand potential social-emotional health implications on teenagers from excessive smartphone use.
Deakin is awaiting ethics approval to study the effects of smartphone use in schools but the study, led by Dr Horwood, on undergraduate university students had parallels in anecdotal results The Courier saw emerging at Daylesford Secondary.
Dr Horwood said what she did know was about 60 per cent of Australian parents report family conflict due to teenager smartphone use.
She said there were also studies that showed how attention switching – swapping between laptops or books and phones – had a negative impact on school grades and learning retention.
“Apps can be super addictive and they’re built that way. Kids and teens are still developing control,” Dr Horwood said. “There is also the snowball effect of the fear of missing out. No-one wants to be the first one to stop replying or to go to bed first.”
The Daylesford experiment was a one-off awareness day. Staff will review the day and share ideas for how the concept could be adapted for class – they too had locked their phones up for the day.
Daylesford Secondary College principal Steve MacPhail admitted a few nerves in asking students to part with their phones but he was pleased by how willing they were to join in.
“It’s not about saying, let’s ban mobile phones. It is about promoting everything in moderation, just like we do on our healthy eating days,” Mr MacPhail said. “You can still have a mobile, but don’t be consumed by it.”
Mr MacPhail said staff saw firsthand the effects of excessive mobile use on student’s sleep, distractions and bullying each day.
Daylesford Secondary took part in the trial after a staff member applied to American company CBS, which was offering the chance to an Australian school.
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