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Students and phones: An update

An update on a previous post about eliminating the distraction of phones in school:

School districts across 41 states have spent $2.5 million over the past eight years to buy the pouches from Yondr.

But most of that has come in the past year and a half as schools try to find new ways to secure student attention during class.

The pouches are reusable and only slightly bigger than a smartphone. They lock and unlock with the touch of a specialized magnet, making them harder to open than a fabric fastener and quicker to unlock. Students retain possession of their phones but cannot access them unless a teacher or administrator unlocks the pouch.

Happily, joyfully, blissfully, these pouches have become ubiquitous in a growing number of schools nationwide.

As an elementary school teacher, I rarely deal with phones. Some children bring them to school, but they must remain tucked away in their backpacks and lockers for the entirety of the school day. Admittedly, the age at which some of these kids carry phones is disturbing (though anything less than high school age is alarming to me), but at least they don’t interfere with our school day.

In an average school year, I may confiscate one phone from a student who attempts to use it at recess.

Otherwise, I never see their phones until the end of the school day.

But in middle and high school, the widespread use of phones has been disastrous.

About 46% of teens say they are online “almost constantly,” which is double the share who said the same thing in 2014-2015, according to surveys over time by the Pew Research Center.

In a Pew survey in 2023, 95% of teens ages 13 to 17 said they had access to a smartphone.

Governments are beginning to take action, too. Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Maryland, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and California have prohibited the use of phones during school hours or are currently working on such restrictions.

Perhaps you can close Pandora’s Box after all… at least during the school day.