Jan. 11, 2023 — As vice principal of Pennsville Middle School in New Jersey, Adam J. Slusher knows he won’t always be Mr. Popular.
Scheduling, enforcing policy and discipline are part of the vice chancellor’s job, so Slusher, who has a Ph.D. Welcome to the new policy.
But last July, when Slusher sent a message to the homes of 450 Pennsville students in grades 6 to 8, the reaction was very different. An email blast announcing the school’s new cell phone policy. Beginning in September, as Slusher explained in a message — which was also sent to the school’s 60 staff — Binnsville students will be banned from using their cell phones for any reason during class.
He stresses that phones are “to be switched off” and placed in backpacks or handbags, rather than carried around or tucked into a back pocket.
new product release leave for a day The policy, dictated by Slusher and Pennsville Principal Carolyn Carels, has drawn mixed reactions from his announcements on things like exam dates, emergency procedures or new detention policies.
“This is one of the most popular emails I get‘It’s been sent,” laughs Slusher, who has been an educator for 17 years. “We get a lot of thanks from our teachers for that. “
The same goes for staff, who in conversations with Slusher and Carels reported frenzied cellphone use in the cafeteria and in the hallways—confirming what both of them saw.
“They told us, ‘You’ve got to do something with the phone,'” recalls Slusher. “They are pleased that there will now be clear policy.”
Parents in Pennsville overwhelmingly support the new policy, too, especially after seeing some sobering evidence about the extent of phone use among this population.a study Slusher quoted in his email indicates that middle school students spend an average of 6 to 9 hours per day on screens.
“It’s like a full-time job,” he said.
Children’s heavy use of cell phones at school, out of school, anywhere and everywhere is part of what drove physician and filmmaker Delaney Ruston, MD, to launch the “Away for the Day” initiative, which Pennsville has embraced.
She and collaborator Lisa Tabb were driven to do “Away for the Day” while writing Screenertheir winning entries 2016 movie Research on the impact of social media, video and screen time on teens and their families also offers tips for better navigating the digital world.
“In the three-plus years I’ve been working on this film, I’ve visited schools all over the country,” Ruston said. “By the end, I saw devices everywhere, even in elementary schools. When I asked students in the hall, ‘What’s the policy?’ ’ They would shrug and say ‘I don’t know.’ When I got the same reaction from my teachers — in many cases they were left to decide for themselves, so they had to be bad — I realized there was a problem.”
The result is what Ruston and Tabb describe on their website as a “movement” that aims to give parents, teachers and administrators tools to help them create policies that put away phones during school hours.
Even a casual glance at any high school or college classroom will confirm that teens and young adults use cellphones at a high rate. But Ruston and Tabb decided to focus on middle school.
“That’s the era where we know schools face the most challenges,” Ruston said. “It’s also a time when social centrality is a major concern for young people. So being on the social media game where your peers are is very tempting.”
Indeed: a recent study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics find those middle school students Mandatory checking of social networks On their phones, brain regions associated with reward and punishment appeared to change.
She concluded that secondary schools are “where the greatest need for an effective cell phone policy is found”.
As part of their research on the issue, she and Tabb conducted a survey using email contacts collected by Ruston‘Her company, MyDoc Productions, during film production, and a subscriber to her blog. A total of 1,200 parents — each with at least one child in middle school at the time — being investigated. The researchers found an interesting disconnect: 82% of parents surveyed do not want their children to use cell phones at school. However, 55% of secondary schools allow students to carry mobile phones during school hours.
The survey was completed in 2017. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, children have seen a dramatic increase in cell phone use at school and at home.A literature review of 46 studies, published in JAMA Pediatrics In November, it was found that the average screen time of children and teens increased by 52%, or 84 minutes per day, during the pandemic.
The trend has prompted many schools, including Pennsville, to adopt “leave school”-style policies. As part of the program, Ruston’s website provides ammunition for every type of resistance they may encounter. One of the most common views is that banning mobile phones for middle school students is a misguided anti-tech measure.
“We’re not against technology at all,” Ruston asserted. She explained that Away for the Day promotes the use of learning technology in schools supervised and supervised by teachers.
“Most students have access to learning devices at school,” she said. “These have different kinds of blockers that make it harder for their kids to reply to their friends on TikTok when they’re supposed to be using technology for learning.”
Ruston estimates that about 10,000 middle schools are now using a variety of content from the Away for the Day campaign, which includes videos, posters, fact sheets and other materials. Other schools have taken similar steps in the same spirit.
Predictable and calm?not so much
When Katherine Holden was named principal of Oregon Talent High last year, one of the first things she wanted to do was prepare for 2 years of distance learning, staggered schedules, and mask assignments.
“Predictable and calm,” she laughs. “I use those words every day.”
Achieving those two goals in one middle school is hard enough No An epidemic—not to mention an epidemic of cell phone use. (Talent also experienced a fire in 2020 that left many families homeless.)
For this school year, Holden is using a new, articulated policy: “Equipment is put away from the first bell to the last,” she said. “We want them to focus on other things. We want them to socialize, interact face-to-face with their peers, think about class. We want them to make eye contact, ask questions. Learn how to make friends face-to-face. These are important developmental socials that they should be practicing Skill.”
Instead of scrolling through photos on Instagram, watching trending videos on TikTok or texting friends.
Like Slusher, she announced the new cell phone policy in a letter to parents last summer, complete with a list of school supplies her kids will need.
“Students are welcome to use cell phones and personal devices before entering the building by 8:30 a.m. and after leaving the school building by 3:10 p.m.,” she wrote. “However, during the school day, the students’Cell phones and personal devices need to be turned off and out of sight. “I think parents generally understand the need for that,” Holden said. “They‘I’ve seen their kids get distracted by these devices at home, so they know how phones can add a layer of challenge to learning. Parents know the unkindness that often happens online. “
As for the kids themselves? It’s safe to say that the emails Slusher received from Pennsville faculty, staff and parents didn’t get students excited.
“they do not‘Honestly, I don’t like it all,” he said. “But they understand‘It’s for their benefit. When we sold it to them at the meeting at the beginning of the year, we made our case. From the kids I’ve talked to, I think most understand why we do what we do. “