Jentrie Hales, community advocate, @techhealthyfamily

The advanced progression and access to cell phones have given schools a relatively new challenge. Earlier this year, Governor Cox spoke on this issue and made a statement strongly encouraging both private and public schools to ban cell phones in all classrooms.

Part of his address states, “Cell phone-free learning environments will help our teachers teach and our students learn. We want to give our schools every opportunity to succeed, so I hope our local school districts and charter schools will join me in this effort to keep phones in backpacks or lockers during class time.”

Based on my local research and experience combined with a more wide-scale view, I have learned that many schools already have a cell phone policy. Several policies in Cache Valley Schools state that students are not allowed to use their cell phones in class and that they will be confiscated if used, with an escalation of discipline as infractions incur.

It is true that these policies are already in place; however, teachers and administrators report that a major problem occurring is the constant battle and hassle of enforcing this rule among students.

As many administrators consider this call to action more seriously and parents advocate for the best environment for their children, there are many factors to consider. Here, I have outlined just two of many considerations for this scenario playing out in Cache Valley schools.

Safety

The physical wellbeing of school students is a huge component of any decision-making. Seemingly, the biggest hangup for parents wanting their children to have access to their devices during the school day is the importance of having their children be able to communicate. Communication is important for simple things like schedule changes or for bigger things like emergencies.

A different side of the picture is that access to devices can perpetuate unsafe situations. Consider the amount of cyberbullying that occurs during school or because of images taken on school grounds. In some serious cases, when there is an emergency, so many people messaging and calling can prevent safety measures from happening more effectively.

Learning

In recent years, technology has boomed inside the classrooms and everywhere else. Many studies show that using technology to learn is beneficial for many kids. In some classrooms, personal cell phones are a standard tool teachers use to take polls and complete assignments.

The flip side is that cell phones prevent students from learning. Even with phones tucked in backpacks or kept in pockets, the constant notifications are just so tempting for young people (as well as adults). One study by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) found that once a notification goes off, it can take up to 20 minutes before someone can regain their focus.

There may be real educational benefits to simply removing these distractions. A junior high in Granite School District reports that their learning has improved since they banned cell phones entirely.

What will schools in Cache Valley do in response to Governor Cox’s plea? And, will administrators and parents work together to implement these strategies?

Jentrie Hales is a community advocate with five years’ experience empowering parents and children in different settings. She has been invited into classrooms, youth groups, and parent groups throughout Cache Valley to speak about healthy relationships with tech and professionally mentor families that feel overwhelmed with managing the tech in their home. Follow her onInstagram @techhealthyfam or email her at techheatlhyfam@gmail.com.