US stu­dents need a cell­phone detox

The Borneo Post - Good English - - Short Story Section - By Brooke Olsen Rom­ney

FRENCH stu­dents are about to get a much-needed detox from their cell­phones now that the gov­ern­ment has banned them dur­ing school for kids 15 and younger. When will our ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem fol­low France’s lead?

Sadly, most schools in the United States are turn­ing a blind eye to a loom­ing pub­lic health cri­sis. What are we wait­ing for? A tragedy? Ten years of data? A lost gen­er­a­tion? Not on my watch. These are my chil­dren, their peers and their friends. As a par­ent, I will not al­low them to be guinea pigs or data points. We have to do some­thing.

In the begin­ning, I did my best to em­brace phone tech­nol­ogy; af­ter all, it is the fu­ture. I tried to let go and be open-minded, but I found my­self in an ed­u­ca­tion nightmare.

While some teach­ers are able to con­trol cell­phones in their class­rooms with a va­ri­ety of in­no­va­tive ideas and con­se­quences, many either can­not or will not. En­forc­ing phone re­stric­tions eats into pre­cious class time, so some tired teach­ers have in­stead begged for 20 phone-free min­utes, re­ward­ing stu­dents with un­reg­u­lated “work” time for the rest of the pe­riod. Cell­phones make won­der­ful babysit­ters. Oth­ers have flocked to a dis­turb­ing, “gov­ern your­self” pol­icy. In­stead of fight­ing phones, they give stu­dents

the free­dom to choose: Put them away and learn, or keep them out and do poorly. Imag­ine a typ­i­cal mid­dle school boy. Will rocks and min­er­als cap­ture his at­ten­tion or Fort­nite on his phone? You don’t have to get too deep into brain re­search to know that he will of­ten make the wrong choice.

So what are we left with? Lower test scores. Strug­gling stu­dents. Bril­liant screens dulling our chil­dren’s learn­ing, dis­cus­sion and cre­ativ­ity.

And that’s just scratch­ing the sur­face. Phones are tak­ing an astro­nom­i­cal toll on the so­cial, men­tal and emo­tional health of our stu­dents. Bul­ly­ing dur­ing school has shifted on­line. Boys meet in the bath­room to look at porn, and girls scroll through events they weren’t in­vited to and cut them­selves to dull the pain. Kids are air­drop­ping nude photos dur­ing class. No won­der there is lit­tle brain ca­pac­ity left for a fivepara­graph es­say.

Lunch­rooms are strangely quiet as kids play on­line games or pass around gos­sip-wor­thy photos, and we won­der why kids are suf­fer­ing from de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety like never be­fore. They will never get these years back.

At my kids’ school, I have begged for a real, en­force­able phone pol­icy for the past two years. What about an over-the-door shoe pouch where phones are held dur­ing class time? How about a zero-tol­er­ance pol­icy where phones are taken if they are seen or heard and can be re­trieved at the end of the day? I came armed with re­search, ideas and anec­dotes, but there was al­ways some­one who could find a rea­son it wouldn’t work. No one was brave enough to try.

I am not sure what ev­ery­one is so afraid of. Par­ents could still get a hold of chil­dren if there is an emer­gency. Of­fice phones are alive and well. Schoolowned com­put­ers and tablets can teach stu­dents how to use tech­nol­ogy in ways that are ac­tu­ally ed­u­ca­tional. They will not fall be­hind the curve if they don’t mas­ter In­sta­gram or Game Pi­geon.

Be­cause noth­ing was be­ing done on a school­wide level, I took mat­ters into my own hands, pur­chas­ing a flip phone for my sev­enth-grader and in­stalling an app that al­lows me to shut off my ninth-grader’s phone dur­ing school time. Look­ing back on the year, they were both grate­ful for a less dis­tracted op­por­tu­nity to learn.

But not ev­ery par­ent can or will reg­u­late like this, so we must have pol­icy. Pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion ex­ists to give ev­ery stu­dent a fair op­por­tu­nity to learn, re­gard­less of back­ground, so­cio-eco­nomic sta­tus or fam­ily sit­u­a­tion, and phones - not politi­cians or lack of fund­ing - are stealth­ily strip­ping that op­por­tu­nity away. It’s time to take a stand.

School ad­min­is­tra­tors every­where must en­act real, en­force­able cell­phone poli­cies, now, that take phones out of class­rooms and put ed­u­ca­tion back in. They are re­spon­si­ble for the learn­ing that does or does not take place dur­ing the seven hours stu­dents are in school and have the power to change this de­struc­tive en­vi­ron­ment. Teach­ers need ad­min­is­tra­tive lead­er­ship and sup­port and our chil­dren need a fight­ing chance to ex­cel in this over­sat­u­rated world.

We can­not wait one year longer. Our chil­dren de­serve more.

– Wash­ing­ton Post.

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