Across the Illawarra public school students are banned from using their phones at school for about six hours per day but one school upgraded the challenge to 24 hours for six months.
A hundred Year 9 students at Sydney's private school Scots College had no access to their phones before, during or after school while they boarded at their Glengarry campus in Kangaroo Valley.
For two terms the students had limited laptop use for education purposes only or to get in contact with family for special occasions.
Year 9 student Darcy Spellson said he didn't realise how distracted he was from his phone until he went to the Kangaroo Valley campus.
"There's very minimal technology. We've had like four movie nights and that's the only like TV or anything we watch," Darcy said.
"Heaps of people in my dorm started playing cards and playing with Rubik's Cubes."
Scots College student Oscar Tremlett said students only communicated with their family and friends through handwritten letters.
What's six months like without a phone?
Oscar believes not having a phone meant he learned more about people around him and what their life story is.
"I think it makes you actually a kinder person as well because a lot of people blackmail each other on phones ... it's better to talk to people than text," he said.
The students went home briefly for the September school holidays and despite free access to their screens, many continued to limit their phone use.
Darcy said he didn't use his phone as much while Oscar said he continued not using any devices before bed which improved his sleep.
"When I got home I didn't take my phone out of the cupboard for two days. I just like talked to my family ... I just didn't feel like I needed it," Darcy said.
Advice to people addicted to screens
Darcy suggested that students who struggle to get off their phones should try not to use them for one day to start with.
"Soon enough you realise that you don't need it to socialise and you don't need it to entertain yourself," he said.
The 15-year-old said without the distractions he's reduced his procrastination from study, a habit he hopes to continue.
Celebrate with a 200km journey home
To mark the end of their study at Kangaroo Valley, the students made a 200-kilometre journey towards their Belevue Hill campus in Sydney's eastern suburbs.
The cycling and hiking journey is seen as a rite of passage from "boyhood to manhood", acting head of Glengarry campus Tania Lloyd said.
"They're learning to make right choices, learning to be brave, learning to push yourself, learning to try things out you've never tried before," she said.
"This is the first time a lot of them have every been away from home. How brave and resilient they've all become."
The long journey home:
- Day one: Kangaroo Valley to Gerringong
- Day two: Gerringong to Shell Cove
- Day three: Shell Cove to Coledale Beach
- Day four: Coledale Beach to Stanwell Tops
- Day five: Stanwell Tops to Bundeena
- Day six: Bundeena to Bellevue Hill
It's quite a logistical task to plan the 6-day trip with a hundred students and 35 staff members.
Their contingency plans came in handy when the students were evacuated into a nearby hall at Stanwell Tops on November 29 due to lightning.
From their first day on November 25, the students cycled about 55 kilometres from their Kangaroo campus to Gerringong.
On their last day on Friday, December 1, they took a ferry from Bundeena to Rose Bay and walked from there to Bellevue Hill to a welcoming party.