Can a school mobile phone ban really improve wellbeing?
“No phone, no problem – this is the general feeling at school since we implemented a no-phone-policy at the start of the academic year”, says Bill Hanrahan, Psychology Instructor and Technology Education Coach at International School Ho Chi Minh City-American Academy (ISHCMC-AA) in Vietnam.
‘Away for a Day’ was our first move towards a school without mobile phones. It was a day with board games, book readings, a poetry café and classes that promoted conversation and minimal technology use. We found that if you gave the students something to do during their free time instead of using their phone, they didn’t express much concern.
Since then, we’ve rolled out the full no-phone-policy. We’ve had a few issues, with phones being brought to class unknowingly, but these are simply confiscated and given to the main office for the remainder of the school day. It hasn’t been nearly as much of a toll as we thought it would be. On average, I collect one phone a week.
When we were young, most of our break time in school was spent playing and socialising with other children. By banning phones at ISHCMC-AA, we’re protecting our students from the danger of growing up without knowing how to actually talk to people. Our students are gathering in circles again. They laugh, smile and make eye contact. There may even be a few more romantic crushes this year.
It’s also helped us identify students that require support developing their social skills and those who need additional emotional support, too. Physical and verbal bullying is much easier to spot. Bullies can no longer hide behind a text. And the harassment students may, unfortunately, experience online now stops at the school gate.
Picking up on one of the main reasons we decided to introduce the mobile phone ban, that being to deepen student learning, Andrew Mathie, Syracuse University Adjunct Instructor of Physics, has described how “their [students] attention span is much better when they don’t have a screen to distract themselves.”
The impact has been widely felt in many areas and with great appreciation from our students’ parents, many of whom were looking for help to get their kids off their devices. Michael Haddad, Syracuse University Adjunct Instructor of Calculus, said, “students like school better this way”, and in my experience, he’s right. The feeling is unanimous in our school. Sure, the students want their phones back, but they don’t really know why they want them.
On Cognita’s inaugural Global Be Well Day last month, 75 school communities discussed the use of social media and screen time, and the potential harmful influences these can have on mental health and wellbeing. The no-phone-policy at ISHCMC-AA is just one of many initiatives in action at our schools across the globe to promote student wellbeing. Find out more about our groupwide commitment to wellbeing, here.
You can read more of Bill’s articles and journeys in Vietnam on his website.