Review into the non-educational use of mobile devices in NSW schools

The independent review into the non-educational use of mobile digital devices in NSW schools is complete.

The review was commissioned by the NSW Minister for Education in June 2018. The Minister appointed child psychologist, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg to lead the review. Dr Carr-Gregg appointed two other independent experts, Associate Professor Amanda Third and cybersafety expert Susan McLean, to support with the review.

The review was informed by public consultation and the views of students, parents, teachers, principals, experts (in the field of child development, cyberbullying, mental health and technology) and other interested community members. The review team received nearly 14,000 survey responses and 80 written submissions.

The review team would like to thank the thousands of people who invested their time and energy in completing surveys, making submissions and providing commentary informing the work of the review. In particular, they would like to acknowledge the input from the many thousands of young people who took the time and effort to make submissions. The review team are also grateful to the many external experts consulted during this process.

On Thursday 13 December, the NSW government announced that in response to the findings and recommendations in the review report the use of mobile devices during school hours will be restricted in NSW public primary schools. NSW public high schools can opt into this restriction or pursue the approach that best suits their circumstances and the needs of their diverse communities.

The NSW Department of Education will be working toward implementing this reform during the course of 2019. Guidance on possible approaches and resources will be provided in the New Year. Some possible options are included in the review report.

Scope of the review

The terms of reference for the review were as follows:

  1. Conduct a review of evidence related to the benefits and risks of mobile digital devices*, primarily smartphones, in schools for children and young people and approaches and practices to support students’ use of such devices in safe, responsible, and informed ways. This will include:
    1. An international literature review on the use and impact of mobile digital devices in all school settings – primary, secondary, Schools for Specific Purposes (SSPs) and Central Schools. This will include peer-reviewed scholarship from across disciplines and ‘grey’ literature (such as program evaluations and reports on evidence-based interventions).
    2. Stakeholder consultation and feedback via focus groups and other mechanisms.

    The consultation with children and young people will include when, how, and why they use mobile digital devices in order that the review’s recommendations align with and can effectively and meaningfully impact their practices.

  2. The review will assess the extent to which having mobile digital devices in schools may contribute to or exacerbate identified risks, including cyber-bullying, image-based abuse, and access to online harm in schools.
  3. The review will identify how children and young people can best be prepared to mitigate identified risks.
  4. The review will identify best-practice approaches and practices for schools and parents to support students’ use of mobile digital devices in safe, responsible, and informed ways to promote learning and respectful relationships.
  5. The review will consider whether a restriction or other limits should be placed on smartphone use for children in primary schools or children in certain age brackets. The practices of other jurisdictions will be informative in this regard.

*Mobile digital device: a hand-held electronic device that can receive, store, process and send digital information.

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