Schools could be sued for mobile phone use, lawyer warns
RENEWED scrutiny on schools' mobile phone policies has come after a recent survey reported one in three instances of bullying happened online.
Findings reported by Reach Out.com on Monday show parents are more concerned about their children using social media and technology than drugs, alcohol and smoking.
But despite the statistics, the organisation said no strong action had been taken.
Students at Warwick State High School are allowed to use mobile phones during lunchtime and breaks under Department of Education policies that have been criticised by parents and legal experts.
A spokeswoman from the department said access to technology and mobile devices in schools was a modern-day reality.
"However schools are required to implement policies for the acceptable use of these devices," she said.
A long list of WSHS regulations surrounding the use of mobile phones include a ban on sending obscene text messages and taking photos or video of "inappropriate behaviour".
But lawyers have warned that allowing mobile phones in the playground could get schools sued for failing to protect students from pornography or online bullying.
The Queensland Law Society deputy president and prominent criminal lawyer Bill Potts said schools had a legal responsibility to ensure offences were not occurring on grounds.
School of Total Education principal Shane Power said his school had taken a total ban to mobile phones approach.
"The reason is to remove a distraction from the normal face-to-face relating between the students and to remove the risk of unsavoury material."
Phones can offer protection
HAVING access to mobile phones during school hours could be a strategy to protect against mental health risks in older students, a Warwick parent has said.
Christine Bradfield is the mother of two daughters who navigated the challenging domain of school and technology during their high school years at Scots PGC College.
Mrs Bradfield said mobile phones could be a useful avenue for older students to seek support in the higher levels of high school.
"If your children don't have a lot of friends or you need someone to talk to, you can pick up the phone and send a text," she said.
"I know my girls would do it sometimes to get something off their chest."
Mrs Bradfield said students from Year 10 onwards should be given the responsibility to use their phones appropriately in school.
Maxwell Lancaster Solicitors principal Rebecca Lancaster said issues of bullying and exposure to sexually explicit materials were not new but were being communicated in a new way.
"That can be hard for us to keep up with, it is certainly hard for the laws to keep up with," she said.
Ms Lancaster said parents and schools should not only have a shared interest in protecting children from dangerous material, but should also put effort into helping them grow and teaching them how to use mobile phones appropriately.