That’s the question on both teachers and parents minds following the recent controversy at Shore School in Sydney’s North Shore, which discovered that the use of personal laptops was leading to gaming, gambling and even porn amongst students during class.
Shore School had permitted “BYO laptops” in what they described as a response to changing education and technology environments.
Public schools are also known to implement similar BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices) policies in consideration of the varying financial capacities of parents.
Shore School was indeed using Wi-Fi settings to restrict certain websites and inappropriate online content, while teachers were tasked with monitoring laptop use in classrooms.
However, students who used their own data or dongles were able bypass the restrictions, becoming distracted by social media, online gambling and even pornography while in class.
The classroom distraction was revealed by a former Year 12 student, who wrote an (as yet unpublished) scathing expose for The Shore Weekly Record.
“Students are gambling, gaming, scrolling through social media, watching Netflix, purchasing things on eBay, video conferencing with their friends and viewing pornography all while their teacher is addressing them,” the Sydney Morning Herald reported the student as saying.
“Fewer than half of the students in most of my classes are paying full attention to teachers, with most staring blankly at their laptops.
“One of my teachers has to stop his class once every 10 minutes to tell people to simply look at him while he delivers content.”
Shore School has since stopped allowing students to BYODs to class in favour of renting out devices like laptops with inbuilt controls to prevent distraction.
But what do students think about it?
Well, if we consider the results from our What Gen Z Actually Do Online report – which found 40% of Gen Zs think personal devices like mobile phones should be kept in lockers during class to reduce distractions – students could actually be in favour of the BYOD ban.
“We are crazy about social platforms,” an 18-year-old male from NSW said.
“And while using them we neglect school work, extra-curricular activities and even friends and family.
“For some, this can be a contributing factor that disrupts their school/homework routine. Many young people even begin failing at school and can become addicted to social media and online gaming sites.”
So where to from here?
The head of the Secondary Principals Council, Craig Petersen, told the Sydney Morning Herald that it should be up to state governments to issue standard issue devices to all high school students.
“If we are going to do the right thing for our students, it makes sense to provide a standard device,” Petersen said.
“It would solve equity issues, and it would make things so much simpler for schools.”
Sounds like a worthwhile gamble to us.