Steps to Changing the Cell Phone Policy in Your School

As research continues to roll in, it is becoming more and more obvious that cell phones and other personal electronic devices are stealing learning and social and emotional well being from our children during the hours that are supposed to be filled with education.

It takes active parents, administrators, and communities who are willing to change that status quo and what is cool and comfortable in exchange for the betterment of our kids.

Recently, I received a screen shot with an announcement from the Principal at Indian Hills Middle School. This is what was published in their bulletin:

“We have all been informed about the growing information about the adverse effects of too much screen time for our kids. Here at Indian Hills we are taking that message to heart and have asked for your support at home. We are strictly enforcing the district cell phone policy to ensure our students have as much academically focused time as possible.

“As a school we have been committed to providing the necessary technology for our classroom teachers in the form of Chromebooks and headphones. Cell phones are not a part of our educational day and may only be used during lunchtime and class breaks. Headphones/earbuds are only allowed during lunchtime, and only one ear may be obstructed at any time. If you are a parent who frequently communicates with your student through their cell phone, please remember that you may contact the main office to get a message to your student.

“As we continue to gain more information on the impact phones, social media and other less-regulated communication methods are having on our educational setting, please be assured we will look for ways to minimize the adverse effects technology is having on our students.”

Other policies you might be interested in:

HOORAY for smart, innovative, and action oriented educators who are willing to stand up and do something! When I asked how this happened, my friend said, “It was as simple as mentioning it in one PTSA meeting, having lots of support from other parents and giving the principal excerpts from articles.” Parents, this is something you CAN help make happen.

Below you will find a few tips for advocating for change and links to articles that will help you in your efforts. If you have any questions, problems, or successes please share them with us in the comments!

A few important points before you get started:

  • Come at things from an EDUCATION angle and use DATA. These things are impossible to refute. Emotions, religious convictions and feelings are easy for administrators to brush under the rug. It wasn’t until I started showing how phones were hindering education that I got a real response.

  • Get a team. It is easy to ignore one parent, but it is difficult to ignore 50. Find other like minded parents and come at this situation together.
  • Do NOT be anti-technology. This frightens public educators, as so much of their money has been put into technology and it really is the future in so many ways. Remind them how much you love actual technology that is used for education. There is a HUGE difference between technology used to enhance learning and cell phones which distract from learning.

  • Many times administrators will refute you by saying that regulating cell phone use is a parental responsibility, not a school responsibility. Remind them that when parents cannot or will not do what is necessary to keep their kids safe and healthy, the school steps in. Think of free lunch, tutoring, counseling, etc. Schools do their best to teach healthy habits that will enable students of all backgrounds to be successful even if they aren’t reinforced at home. Healthy screen habits should be modeled and enforced in the schools so that every child, regardless of background or parents has a fighting chance. It is possible and necessary.
  • Remind administrators that schools have a responsibility to keep kids safe and this includes morally safe. If they are being shown pornography or it is being air dropped to them during school or if their is cyber bullying or rumors and pictures being shared during the school day that hinders a student’s ability to learn, that is infringing on their right to learn in a safe environment. Removing cell phones from schools fixes this issue entirely.
  • The most important part of all of this is that there is a SCHOOL WIDE, ENFORCEABLE policy. You might be surprised to find that your school actually has a policy on the books, but they don’t enforce it. If they don’t have one, help craft one that works and will be ENFORCED in a detailed and consistent way. Kids needs consistency. Teachers need a rule they MUST follow so they aren’t just the bad guy or the lame teacher. At one school, the first time it is seen during class without permission, it is put in the teacher’s lock box and given back at the end of class, the second time it is taken to the office and can be picked up at the end of the day. The third time, the parent must pick it up. The fourth time there is detention or suspension.
  • If administration seems skeptical about being able to enforce this, remind them of what they have been able to enforce in the past (no backpacks in classrooms, no hats, dress code, fighting, one point of entry etc.) Schools have a lot of power and they should use it to make education better in their schools. Get teachers on board. It is happening all over and working!

  • Consider filling or creating a “Digital Safety” position where you help encourage healthy technology practices at school and at home. Try posters, lunchtime activities, and coordinating assemblies. Help educate students and parents weekly or monthly with tips on how to control cell phone use with their teens and the consequences of not doing so. You can find information on my site and on many others. Going at it as someone willing to dig in and support is a really positive way to confront things. This strategy worked really well for one of my readers, and I am grateful she shared this idea!
  • If you don’t get a great response, don’t be discouraged. You are planting seeds and working for good things, which take time and the right people coming together. Be patient, innovative and willing to keep trying in all different ways.

If you need more support or your administration won’t get on board, try the following avenues:

  • Meet with the PTA, see if they will support your efforts

  • Meet with the Community Council and present your research

  • Talk with teachers who are struggling because of the distractions, see if they would be willing to share their story

  • Talk with counselors at the school, see if they have insight

  • Start a petition in your area and show how much support you have…there is strength in numbers and they can’t ignore 100 parents like they can ignore 1
  • Meet with the school board, see if you have support there

  • Talk with other schools or principals that have enacted change and see how it is working for them

  • If you have seen real problems, contact a local media outlet to bring attention to the issue AFTER you have tried to solve things on a personal level

RESEARCH THAT WILL HELP YOUR CAUSE (all articles are linked)

Washington Post: US Students Need a Cell Phone Detox (This article specifically outlines WHY we need a change) if the link won’t work, HERE is another option

This Colorado Middle School Banned Phones 7 Years Ago. They Say Students are Happier, Less Stressed and More Focused (SO good! Shows all the positive reads why we need to get phones out of schools)

French Schools Ban Cell Phones (Lots of good reasons why France banned cell phones)

The Results of the French Cell Phone Ban (hint: it’s all good)

Test Scores Rise After Cell Phones Banned From Schools (can’t refute this)

Ontario, Canada Bans Personal Electronic Devices (some great research in here)

San Mateo School District Bans Cell Phones (they use the Yondr pouch…great idea)

Michigan Schools Take Away Phones and See Less Anxiety and More Interaction

Good Reports After Michigan Cell Phone Ban (see how different schools are making it happen and the good things that have come from it)

Teens Who Spend More Time on Social Media have Increased Depression: Study

Increasing Social Media use Tied to Rise in Teens’ Depressive Symptoms, study says

Teens and Screens: Why Parents Must Police the Relation

Positive Results after Phones are Banned from Schools (more data)

What Happens when Yondr Pouches Lock Cell Phones During the Day

More Results of Taking Phones out of Classrooms

Phones Are an Epidemic in our Schools (how much education time is being lost because of cell phones)

Airdropped Nude Photos Upset Parents (how are kids expected to focus on learning when they have to worry about things like this?

How Cell Phones Hijack Our Minds

Even Having a Cell Phone Within Reach Ruins Concentration

Science Daily Article About How Cell Phones Reduce Brain Power

Why Social Media Is Not Smart for Middle School Kids

Screens in Schools Are a Hoax

What Screen Time Can Really Do to Kids’ Brains

The Tech Industry’s War on Kids

Silicon Valley Parents are Raising their Kids Tech Free and it should be a Red Flag

Why Tech Moguls Send their Kids to Anti-Tech Schools

Why One Hour a Day is the Perfect Amount of Screen Time for Teens (schools can help all kids by enforcing less time)

Predators Using Fortnite to Lure Kids (kids are using this during school)

1/4 of Girls Self Harm (let them foster real connections during school)

Glow Kids (read the chapter about cell phones in schools, it will blow your mind)

Save the Kids (Collin Kartchner’s fantastic movement, have him come speak to your school!)

OTHER IDEAS

Our school has adopted these pockets in every classroom (LINK HERE)

They seem to be working really well so far. There has been a marked difference in the learning environment and the amount of time teachers are policing cell phones. A mom told me her daughter used to come home from school and have to charge her cell phone right away, now it is at 80% when she comes home! That’s a great thing.

A few things you should know about this solution:

  • It really only works if it is a school policy and ALL the teachers do it. Freedom for different situations or using it as a suggestion makes it so much less effective.

  • There must be tough consequences if phones are not put in pockets and they are detected. You MUST have an administration and teachers who are serious and clear about the consequences of not following the policy.

  • The most effective classrooms use these as a way to take roll. If you don’t have a phone, your parent has to email the teacher and a card is placed in your slot instead. This ensures the phones are in there. I like this because phones are out of reach, they can’t feel the vibrations of notifications (which hinder learning and concentration)  and it is easy and inexpensive ($15 each).

  • This way, cell phones are still accessible if teachers would like the class to use them for a specific educational reason. This is a good/bad. It is great if a classroom really does use them for education purposes every once in awhile but bad because the policy can be abused so easily which makes the pockets much less effective.

  • It is a nice baby step. Students can still check messages in between classes and at lunch. This is a downside for me (social interaction) but may be a positive in selling it to skeptical parents and teachers.

  • The biggest downside is that cell phones are just open. They are expensive and they run the risk of being stolen (which did happen at a friend’s school)…depending on your area it may not be a viable option. To combat this, there would have to be some protocol. I would suggest hanging the pockets in an area that is visible to the teacher and students at all times, not near the door. I would also suggest that they take the last 2 minutes of class and have everyone retrieve their cell phones before the bell rings. That way, if anyone has stolen one, it will still be in the classroom and can be found. For those that claim teaching time would be lost, you can assure them that regulating cell phones takes much longer than 2 minutes during a class period.

  • For those who would prefer a locking option or who teach in a more difficult area, you could use a lock box like this (LINK). This has been used in multiple classrooms and does work, though it is less organized and may be harder to give them back at the end of class.

  • If teachers are worried about being responsible for them, an attorney suggested having a document everyone signs at registration that basically says something like, “I understand my child is not required to bring a personal electronic device to school. If he or she chooses to bring it, it must be used according to the school cell phone policy. The school is not responsible for lost or stolen items.”

  • Yondr is also a great option that has been used in many schools. The problem with this option is that it is a bit more time consuming and costly. However, they do work with schools on price and depending on your area a grant might be an option.

Please let me know if you have any questions, concerns, additional research, problems or successes. I would love to see what schools and districts do to make this happen and why they are fighting against it! We are stronger together.

Lots of love and luck!

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