Positive roll out of Yonder Phone pouches for Calrossy students

Parents will be aware that we are implementing the use of Yondr Phone Pouches this term in the Secondary School. This follows growing worldwide concern on the impact of smart phones in school classrooms, relating to mental health and learning. The NSW Government and opposition are both formulating policies that are pointing to a state wide ban of phones in school. 

Calrossy parent seminars held last year with Marshall Ballantine-Jones, who talked on the impact of phones on the teen brain, were quite revealing. Whilst Calrossy community discussion on the topic has not been extensive, the introduction of the pouches is a hot topic for many families. I am aware of mixed feelings of our students and parents. (It is important to note that our existing policies already restrict use of mobile phones during the school day.) 

I stress that our school is not trying to go back to the ‘old days’ before mobile phones. Of course we want students to be connected and have access to learning resources available. Smart devices are here to stay and will be integral to tour students’ future. Our intent is to maximise learning and the school experience, making the most of their lesson time, learning and relationships. We acknowledge that there are benefits to smart phones and there is a time and important place for them but not in class when learning. 

A developing body of neuroscientific study indicates that phones limit concentration and lessen attention spans. The suggestion that kids are good at multitasking is not supported and research is clear that memory, focus and engagement is lower. The addictive nature of social media is also an issue for some students, particularly in the early adolescent years. Sadly, too many students are spending increasing time staring at screens, limiting the face-to-face interaction with peers and friends at school. Feedback from our teachers is that phones are a significant distraction in class, even with older students. Not every child is addicted to social media or misuses their device, though educators across Australia continue to point to greater levels of distraction, as the very apps on the phone are designed to be addictive. Some research links the increasing use of social media amongst teens to lowering levels of wellbeing and increased anxiety.

The benefits of the Yondr pouch include:

  • Students maintain possession and responsibility for their own phone during the day
  • The standard is consistent for every child across the school
  • It prevents the temptation to be constantly checking notifications during lessons, that distracts and lowers memory
  • When a child needs assistance or is distressed, they will need to inform an adult, who can assist.
  • The filming and use of inappropriate images and videos at school is restricted
  • Should a phone be required during the day, teachers will have the capacity to provide them with access.
  • Students retain their phones to use in non-school hours, after school in boarding, on public transport and when required
  • Parents are in position to talk with their children about phone use at home and out of school hours.

I accept that there are potential disadvantages to the use of Yondr pouches and some parents have asked how they will contact their child during the day, especially in the case of an important message. Another issue mentioned is that of the trust relationship between students and their teachers. The Frequently Asked Questions will address many of these queries.

Whilst we are early in the implementation stage, there is lots of research and anecdotal evidence from other schools across the world that limiting phone use has seen a measurable improvement in wellbeing, learning and school relationships. In schools where the use of the pouches has become part of normal routine, the benefits to everyone have been very positive.

The pouches won’t solve every problem and children over the years have made an industry of being inventive to responding to various restrictions. Student, teacher and parent education remains part of what we must continue to do together. Ultimately, we have taken this step to promote  a healthy, happy, and engaged learning environment, supporting our learners to enjoy excellence in a Christian environment and growing to be the very best versions of themselves. As always, feedback from students and parents is welcome and appreciated.

For parents who would like to read more on the topic, there are plenty of resources available. Some useful books I have looked at include:

  • The Teen Brain – David Gillespie
  • The Brain Reset – David Gillespie
  • 12 Ways your Phone is Changing Your Brain – Tony Reinkle
  • Teens and Social Media – Gary Weiner
  • Social Media and Mental Health – Claire Edwards (Ed)
  • The Effects of Social Media on Adolescents; Mental Health and Wellbeing – Dr Steph Adam
  • Social Sanity in an Insta World – Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra (Ed)

David Smith