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Mobile Phones, Children and Young People, and Policy Responses. Case Studies from Australia and Japan. Damien Spry Institute for International Studies UTS Part One. Digital Youth and Risk. Who said this? When.

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mobile phones children and young people and policy responses case studies from australia and japan

Mobile Phones, Children and Young People, and Policy Responses. Case Studies from Australia and Japan

Damien Spry

Institute for International Studies


part one

Part One

Digital Youth and Risk

who said this when

Who said this? When

‘Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers’

part two


Mobile Youth in Australia, and elsewhere

research in australia
Research in Australia
  • During terms 3 and 4, 2007, we visited 41 primary schools and 25 high schools in cities, regional centres and country towns all over New South Wales
  • We surveyed 1411 students, 767 from year 6 and 644 from year 9. We also followed up the surveys with discussion groups with 44 of these students.
  • Of the Year 9 students, 94% owned a mobile phone, while 57% of the Year 6 students owned one.  
  • Another recent study supports this. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (part of the Australian Government) surveyed 1003 8-17 year-old young people last year. They were told that 29% of 11-year-olds and 76% of 14-year-olds had used their phone in the previous three days.
  • “I got one for Christmas, it was my Mum’s old phone. It was like the Christmas after year 5 or something and I didn’t use it for a year. It just kind of sat there…. I didn’t really use it that much until high school.”

“Something happened on the bus and I got off two stops too late.… But I thought okay so what am I going to do. So I ended up walking somewhere to a phone and ringing Mum up and said oh, I’m kind of at Sutherland. She said ‘why are you at Sutherland’ and I said ‘I don’t really know’. She said ‘okay that is enough, I’m getting you a mobile phone.’ So I got one last year.”

rules in schools
Rules in schools
  • “[S]ome teachers will let it go and if they hear it ring they will be just, like, turn it off but some teachers if they hear it ring they will be, like, “who has it?” and they want it.
families and schools
Families and schools
  • “Mum and Dad know what time recess and lunch is, so if they need to tell you something, they will text message or tell me then. My Mum knows that my phone is on silent so I will feel it vibrate and then look at it, then call in recess.”
families and schools1
Families and schools
  • “Nan has no idea so she might ring me up in English and I don’t know my phone is turned on. I’ll answer it and say Nana, I’m in English and she will say Oh sure you are honey. How are you going today. And I have to tell her I’ll ring you back later. And she said why? And I said I’m in class.”
  • “The only thing is that, like, people say things in text messages that you probably wouldn’t say to someone’s face, because they are not there.”
serious or not
Serious or not?
  • “Because you haven’t got the person there so you don’t, you can’t see their face, you can’t hear what tone of voice [they] are using so it is kind of hard to know whether they are [being] sarcastic or something.”
part three


Policy responses

australian school policy 1
Australian School Policy 1
  • The following comes from a document produced by the Australian Education Union Tasmanian Branch (AEUTAS, n.d.):

Once upon a time, the problem of students scribbling notes under the desk and surreptitiously passing then around the classroom was the bane of a teacher’s existence.

Oh, we wish that problems were still as simple! Today, with mobile phones

being the essential accessory of all 10+/- year olds, the problem of texting to other students in the room, in another class, to anyone in the world, is all pervasive.

Together with this use of new technology, comes a whole new set of problems relating to access rights, privacy and harassment.

australian school policy 2
Australian School Policy 2
  • This is a similar example from the Victorian Department of Education and Training (2006):

Schools and colleges can make reasonable rules about what students can and cannot bring to school. They can ban anything which is illegal, dangerous or is likely to cause disruption or harm to the smooth running of the school and the education of other students.

The use of mobile phones and similar electronic devices in class can be disruptive to the learning environment of students and should be discouraged. It is acknowledged however that in some circumstances such devices can be appropriately incorporated into the learning program.

Schools which decide to allow the use of mobile phones at schools should clearly and regularly advise students, parents and guardians of their expectations with regard to these devices (p.1)

mobile phones in education
Mobile Phones in Education
  • “Brilliant, finally the educators are going in the right direction. This is exactly how an office worker will perform a task given to them by their boss. Why fill kids heads with tons of information that they probably will never use again. Give them the skills to find and evaluate information and use it to their advantage.”
  • “Have the people of Presbyterian Ladies' College at Croydon taken leave of their senses? The idea of examinations is to test the knowledge of the student taking the exam, not that of their friends or family! A dose of reality is in order here I believe.”
    • SMH, 19 August, 2008, “Phone a Friend”
  • Younger children are becoming more a part of the mobile communications environment than anticipated
  • Some impacts include the production of risk for children and the converse notion of safety and security brought about through the perception of the potential for constant familial contact
  • The importance, in some cases necessity, for mobile communication to facilitate socialisation within peer groups and within families is clear
  • The perception of risk is driving commercialisation of surveillance as an aspect of family management, and driving policy development that treats mobile users as dangerous, or in danger
framing policy
Framing policy
  • We are still in the period of a significant transformation in the communications environment
  • The notions of childhood that are informing contemporary responses to mobile phone use have NOT moved much beyond the pre-sociological
  • The role of mobile ICT in educational institutions is undeveloped, limited largely to administrative policy, rather than educational policy
  • Children have a legitimate role in developing the rules and institutions that affect them