Important reminder

I recently confiscated a mobile phone off a boy who was using it in class. At Marist, we have a really clear rule that mobile phones are not used in classrooms, unless instructed to for educational purposes.

I had previously warned the student, but in line with the policy, this time took the phone off him. Normally, I drop the phone immediately off to the Deputy Headmaster’s office to arrange pick up. This time, I was in a rush and needed to meet someone in my own office, so the phone was placed on my desk.

After the meeting, I continued with some of my own work when I noticed something irregular about the phone. It was moving. Ever so slightly. Every so often, it would vibrate slightly and the screen would emit a flash of light. I glanced at the front of the phone and realised there were notifications appearing. I ignored the first few, but after a while, the constant buzzing, despite only being barely noticeable, caught my attention. I waited and watched. Over the course of a period, the phone received nearly 30 notifications. TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, text messages (even some from other Marist students) and notifications from all manner of other apps designed to tempt and capture the attention of the owner. This is a phone that would have sit comfortably in the pocket of the student as they sat through their next lesson. How could a student possibly learn if their attention is disrupted 30 times in a lesson? It is clear we have a problem.

There is no doubt that smartphone technology offers incredible opportunities for the new generation, but at what cost? Our policy of “No mobiles in classrooms” mirrors many from other educational jurisdictions including the NSW Department of Education, Victorian Department of Education, Western Australian Department of Education, and most independent schools that I am aware of, but do you know why we do not want them in classrooms? A recent study into the effects of mobile phones on the attention and working memory of participants has shown clearly that even the presence of a mobile phone limits the ability to concentrate and solve problems (Ward et al, 2017). The study showed that even having a mobile in a bag inside the room (or a pocket in our case) reduces the owner’s ability to think. This negative effect isn’t even when the phone is buzzing, moving, or flashing - just sitting in the pocket! The study proves what teachers have known for a long time - mobile phones in a classroom do not help a student learn! We want our students to be able to focus entirely on the content and instruction without the risk of checking their phone for the latest message. Teachers do not want to battle students for their attention and focus.

Device use is growing exponentially and is becoming an area where we need to support our boys to use more appropriately. Alarmingly, a recent study demonstrated the challenge, with American teenagers reporting on average 7 hours and 22 minutes on screen devices per day!!!! (Common Sense Media, 2019). This alarming figure becomes even more concerning when learning that this time excludes screen time spent on school work. Whether it is phones, gaming devices or laptops, the ever-increasing appeal of technology for our boys is something that needs to be monitored carefully by both teachers and parents. 

I am aware of the irony of the College having recently moved to a BYOD model contributing to this time and challenge! After reading this article, why not do a simple check? Ask your boy for their phone and check their usage. In an iPhone, this can be found under Settings > Screen time, and with most Android devices, under Settings > Digital Wellbeing. Whilst you are there, check how many notifications they receive in school day.

Our policy is really clear and we need your support. Boys are great at finding a plausible reason for why they are using their mobile, when the reality is often very different. Nearly every teacher can tell a story of a parent who defends their son for having their mobile phone for any range of reasons, often leading to an argument between the teacher and the student. “I am checking my timetable”, “I am checking the time”, or “I am texting my mum” are the most common statements from students, all hoping to find that grey area between the black and white of a rule.

The expectations around mobile phones have been reiterated to students on multiple occasions. We encourage all students to place their mobile phone in their locker at the beginning of the day and not take it to class unless instructed to by their teacher. They may check their phone in their locker area, but we do not want them to take it out to recess or lunchtime - this time is for interacting with their peers without the presence of mobile phones. Of course, we will normally ask politely for the boys to put their phones away and generally they comply quickly and politely, but if the phone is seen or heard, then teachers can confiscate the phone! We need your support with this! Next time you get a call from school saying that your son’s mobile was taken, support us by reinforcing the College’s expectations.


  • Rideout, V. and Robb, M. B. (2019). The Common Sense census: Media use by tweens and teens, 2019. Common Sense Media.
  • Ward, A. F., Duke, K., Gneezy, A., and Bos, M. W. (2017). Brain drain: The mere presence of one’s own smartphone reduces available cognitive capacity. Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, 2(2), 140-154.

Liam Stakelum
Assistant Head of School - Learning and Teaching