Students are “breaking” security pouches after sweeping smartphone bans

Jarrod Brown
Jarrod Brown

Aussie students are finding ways around new smartphone bans, hacking security pouches that schools have spent thousands of dollars implementing.

At the beginning of the school day, students in an increasing number of schools across the nation prepare for class by placing their phones into a ‘security pouch’ – a fabric bag that magnetically locks shut until the final bell rings. 

Students are then only able to open these bags with powerful magnets located at designated “unlocking stations” monitored by teachers. 

Of course, some children will always try to find a way to circumvent measures they don’t like. A quick search on TikTok will uncover dozens of videos of teenagers showing how to open the pouches to access their phones, without permission, during school hours.

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While some simply smash the pouches’ locks to break them open, one video posted in February shows a student using a magnet to bypass the lock completely. It’s amassed more than 3.6 million views. 

@haxcy I would honestly use scissors…?#yondrpouches #phoneban #school #yondr ♬ original sound – Angel885?

By using a magnet, teens can avoid damaging the pouch and incurring the $15 replacement fine from the school. 

An investment in focused education

With an installation cost of roughly $30,000, state governments have left the decision to implement the pouch security system up to the individual schools.

After implementing the mobile phone ban earlier this year in South Australian schools, shadow education minister John Gardner said they had not been given any “extra powers” to manage the policy or funding to offset the cost.

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“It’s really a public service announcement that students of South Australia are very familiar with the new TikTok trend of how to get around the new Yondr pouches,” he said in a statement to ABC News

“Our schools have been tasked with the challenge of delivering on the government’s political rhetoric [but] they haven’t been given any support to do so by the government, no extra funding to improve their infrastructure.

“The government needs to be giving supports to schools to go above and beyond with their resources to deliver on their political promise.”

These smartphone bans were introduced in the hopes of curbing bullying and violence and reducing distractions in the classroom. 

Education minister Blair Boyer said the breakages only highlighted the need for a ban.

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“Because the lengths and the extent that young people will go to stay attached to their devices — it shows why we need to do something,” he said in a statement. 

But with many students choosing not to damage the phone pouches, reinforcing the ability to keep phones far from the teenagers’ temptation is proving important.

A global issue

With smartphone bans now being implemented across the country, Queensland’s announcement of a smartphone ban at all state schools in 2024 brings its policies in line with other states and territories.

And Australian students aren’t alone. A UN report also called for a global ban on smartphones in schools to tackle classroom disruption, improve learning, and protect students’ privacy data.

The report found that incoming notifications or the mere proximity of a mobile device was enough to distract students from the task at hand, with another study showing it took students up to 20 minutes to refocus on learning once their attention had drifted.

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Researchers found that in 2023, almost one in four countries introduced a ban on smartphone use in schools worldwide. 

Some countries, such as Bangladesh and Singapore, have banned smartphone use in class but not in school. Others have been more surgical, banning specific applications from education settings due to concerns over student privacy.

Manos Antoninis, the Director responsible for producing the report, said we need to learn about our past mistakes when using technology in education. 

So, although there is clearly still more to be done to manage restricted access of phones during school hours, it’s just as clear that Australian educators need to explore sustainable solutions.

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Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. Jarrod established his journalism career working on the education news and information site The Bursar. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.