My kids are long out of high school (one in grad school, one working within their profession), but their alma mater—Bethlehem High School—has a new policy starting this year: no cell phones.
Have you ever once seen a teenager without a phone in their hands? It’s going to be an interesting experiment.
Upon arriving at school each day students will need to turn their phones off and lock them in a device called a Yondr Pouch which will carry with them. The pouch can be unlocked only at one of several designated unlocking stations at the end of the day.
According to school administrators, the purpose of the policy is to “limit distractions in the classroom and improve overall student engagement, mental health, and well-being.”
I hope it works. Plenty of research has shown that teenagers are in crisis, with a dramatic rise occurring in persistent feelings of loneliness, sadness, and hopelessness, as well as thoughts of suicide.
Social media is often considered the culprit of this mental health crisis, but obviously there’s a lot more than Instagram and TikTok contributing to the problem—the world on fire, the inability to secure good wages, absent/negligent parents, political chaos, racial and gender targeting, etc.
Naturally, many young people object to the policy. For some students who feel isolated, having a phone to use during downtime can be a reasonable coping mechanism. Then there is the argument about the ability to communicate during an emergency.
I’ll give administrators a hat tip for thinking this through. All students are issued Chromebooks and can communicate with their parents as needed through email, and a parent can always go the old-fashioned route of calling the school office. Plus, every classroom in the school has a phone that can directly dial 911.
The school district plans to use The district will use quantitative and qualitative data to assess the effectiveness of Yondr in improving the student experience. The data collection will include School Climate Survey data, PASS survey data, Youth Risk Behavior Survey data, discipline referrals, as well as faculty and staff feedback.
As I said, I don’t have a student in high school, but I believe this idea is worth trying, even if it’s not a panacea. I also believe parents and other adults have to take a lot more responsibility for nurturing and mentoring the younger generation.