Kids on their cell phones


I Wish They Would Ban Cellphones At School

Feb 14, 2019

Just so you know, it all goes down in Grade 6.

After-school programs end. Students are allowed to leave school at lunch. Kids start going places without their parents. Inevitably, this is the time that many children are granted cellphones.

I say this because before my daughter was in Grade 6, I was murky on the whole when-to-get-my-child-a-phone question. I had read that parents should hold off for as long as possible; that screens are the downfall of healthy emotional development; that they interfere with attention spans, contribute to anxiety and lead to low self-esteem. I decided to wait as long as possible.

That is until my daughter aged out of her aftercare program in Grade 6 and was suddenly let loose in the world. I wanted to know that I could reach her if I needed to, or that she could contact me. We made the choice to give her a cell — just in case of an emergency.

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Soon I was hearing about kids live streaming on school trips, students zoning out on phones at dances instead of actually dancing and kids sending texts during class.

Flash forward one year: I see the playground is a sea of kids tethered to their phones. School seems to have morphed into just another place where they spend a lot of their time glued to screens. It happens during class, at recess, over lunch and at after-school activities. Even for parents who have opted out of getting their kid a phone, their child is still being impacted when all their friends are staring at screens rather than engaging with one another.

I wish schools would bite the bullet and ban cellphones altogether during school hours. Sure, let them take it to school for safe travelling, but when they get there, I’d love to see them put it away until the end of the day.

My daughter’s school year started this fall with a curriculum night and a chance to meet the teacher. As we sat in the classroom learning about what to expect over the upcoming academic year, her teacher informed us that phones were strictly forbidden in the class. I felt a tremendous sense of relief knowing my daughter would have some respite from her screen. That is, until I looked down and noticed a phone hanging out of the kid desk I was sitting at. Rules are easy, enforcement is tricky.

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Soon I was hearing about kids live streaming on school trips, students zoning out on phones at dances instead of actually dancing and kids sending texts during class. And don’t get me wrong. I am not pointing a finger at the teachers. I know how hard it is to monitor the screen time of just one kid, let alone phone policing 25.

Smartphones are here to stay. But I feel schools need to take a more active role in keeping them away from our kids during school hours. Some institutions have boldly experimented with placing a ban on phones and have and reported encouraging results — less bullying, better academic success and more social engagement among students. Interestingly, the school said that most of the resistance on the restriction of phones came from the parents.

Some say smartphones are a valuable teaching tool in the classroom; they can be used for research, as calculators and allow for more independent study. While that may all be true, I’m not sure it makes up for all the distraction they cause.

For me, I remember my middle school experience as being about playing tag with friends, awkward slow dancing with my crush and secretly passing notes in class. I’m just not sure that watching Youtube, DM’ing friends, or live streaming from the cafeteria will conjure up the same fond memories. Time will tell. It seems ironic that the technology, which enables kids to engage with everyone, hinders them when developing the skills to engage deeply with anyone. And maybe that’s a lesson we all need to keep in mind.

Article Author Laura Mullin
Laura Mullin

Read more from Laura here.

Laura Mullin is a published playwright and writer and the Co-Artistic Director of the award-winning company, Expect Theatre. She is also the Co-Host and Producer of PlayME, a podcast that transforms plays into audio dramas now on CBC. She has worked in theatre, film, and television and lives in Toronto with her writer/producer husband and pre-teen daughter. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @expectlaura.

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