Children in Victoria are returning to classrooms this week without mobile phones in their pockets.
Exceptions to the bans will be made for students who need mobile devices for health or educational reasons.
The bans only affect public schools with private institutions left to decide their own policies.
Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, told journalists on Monday he hoped the change will see more students paying attention in class.
“We want our kids focused on learning, not snapchatting and texting and whatever else you might do on a mobile device,” Andrews said.
“This is a pretty simple thing. It’s something parents have called for [and] many teachers have called for.”
Each state is taking a slightly different approach to how it bans mobile devices.
In Tasmania and Victoria, no public school student may have a phone in their possession during the school day – instead, they have to be turned off and locked away.
Western Australian primary school children are not allowed to have phones at school, but high school students can have a phone on them as long as it’s neither seen nor heard.
New South Wales has taken a more relaxed approach, outright banning phones for primary students while leaving it to individual secondary colleges to decide their own policies.
No national policy
Victoria’s announcement of the ban mid last year renewed the debate about what roles phones and other devices play in classrooms.
Western Australia and Tasmania soon followed Victoria’s lead, much to the pleasure of federal Education Minister, Dan Tehan, who has called for a national ban on mobile phones in public schools.
In response to the Tasmanian ban, Tehan cited poor educational performance as well as the effects digital technology may have on the health of young people.
"Student wellbeing is an issue for parents and teachers, particularly with the rise of cyberbullying and the inappropriate use of new technology,” Tehan said.
"There is also growing evidence linking social media use to anxiety and depression in young people, particularly young women.
"When you talk to students, teachers and parents at schools where mobile phones are banned they will tell you that student performance improves and children are playing at lunchtime again.
"Our Government supports any government that restricts mobile phones in schools and we will work with any jurisdiction to limit their use."
Different strokes for different states
In South Australia, phones aren’t banned yet but the Liberal government has been open to the idea.
Governments in Queensland, the ACT, and the Northern Territory, on the other hand, have all stood firm in allowing individuals schools discretion about how they enforce digital policies.
Queensland made its decision following a review into cyberbullying that found the benefits of digital technology in class outweighed the perception that there was an increased risk of harm.
This has been echoed in statements made by Northern Territory Education Minister, Selena Uibo.
"An outright ban on mobile phones fails to take into account the many ways in which they can enhance learning,” Uibo said.
"Responsible use of technology, such as mobile phones, is an important life skill for young people."
When the debate heated up last year, ACT Education Minister, Yvette Berry, said it was vital for students to learn how to manage a digitally connected life.
“Owning a device provides a great opportunity for students to expand their learning journey and we have some great examples in ACT public schools on using devices to enhance classroom activities,” Berry said.
“Helping students understand what appropriate behaviour is both on and offline should be part of that learning journey.
“It’s important that children and young people are taught how to live alongside devices appropriately because this is a big part of our life now.”
Do bans work?
New York City lifted its ban on phones in schools back in 2015.
The policy had been in place since former New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, banned devices from schools in 2006 and was reversed in part because of the difficulty parents had keeping in contact with their children.
New York City Schools Chancellor, Carmen Fariña, said at the time that peace of mind was important for parents.
“Lifting the cell phone ban is about common sense, while ensuring student safety as well as high-level learning in our classrooms,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.
“As a parent and a grandmother, I know that families and children feel safer when our students have access to cell phones.”
Principal of New York’s High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology, Xhenete Shepard, said embracing technology was more important than fighting it.
“In this day and age, technology is very much a part of students’ and families’ everyday lives. Our time is better spent not fighting technology, but rather helping students recognize how to use technology productively and responsibly.”