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Our Thoughts On Cellphones In Elementary School (Gr K-6), Middle School (Gr 6-8), and High School (Gr 8-12)

April 27, 2024

CAVEAT – We base our thoughts and opinions on the research located in this article https://thewhitehatter.ca/blog/some-thoughts-about-cellphones-in-classrooms/

Recently, we’ve been receiving lots of inquiries from parents, educators, and teens via emails, texts, and phone calls, seeking our thoughts on the use of cellphones in schools. While each school varies, we advocate certain principles, acknowledging the necessity for adaptability to cater to each school’s distinct learning needs. It is important that all parents understand that a school has the legal right to dictate the use of cellphones, or any other digital device, by a student on school property.  – here are our thoughts specific to this issue:

Elementary Schools Gr K-6: 

  • No phones to be used during classroom time.

  • No phones to be used during recess or lunch. 

  • Exception #1 – Medical management necessity.

  • Exception #2 – Where there is an Individualized Education Plan for a specific student (IEP) where the use of a cellphone is required for learning.

  • Exception #3 – if a parent wants their child to have a cellphone as an emergency safety tool while at school, or walking to and from school alone, then only a “minimalist phone” (1) is permitted on school property.

  • Exception #4 – if the student has a “minimalist phone”, it is only to be kept in a bag or pocket either turned off or placed in silent mode, and only to be used in exigent circumstances as defined by the school while on school property.

  • No pictures, videos, or audio recordings are permitted anywhere on school property with a phone, or any other device, without the permission of a teacher and the informed consent of the other person.

Middle Schools Gr 6-8: 

  • No phones to be used during classroom time.

  • No phones to be used during recess or lunch.

  • Exception #1 – Medical management necessity.

  • Exception #2 – Where there is an Individualized Education Plan for a specific student (IEP) where the use of a cellphone is required for learning.

  • Exception #3 – if a parent wants their grade 6/7 child to have a cellphone as an emergency safety tool while at school, or walking to and from school alone, then only a “minimalist phone” (1) is permitted on school property.

  • Exception #4 – if the student has a “minimalist phone” it is only to be kept in a locker if available and if not, in their backpack or pocket and only used in exigent circumstances during school hours as defined by the school while on school property.

  • Exception #5 – Given that for many middle school’s grade 8 is the transitioning phase to high school, the use of a cellphone as a tool to augment learning at the discretion of a teacher is allowed. However, not to be used during recess or lunch.

  • All phones, no matter what the grade, should be kept in the student’s locker except in situations where a teacher advises a gr 8 student that it will be used during a specific designated class and time.

  • Exceptions #1, #2 and #3 still apply to all phones for gr 8 students.

  • No pictures, videos, or audio recordings are permitted anywhere on school property with a phone, or any other device, without the permission of a teacher and the informed consent of the other person.

High Schools Gr 8-12: 

  • Students may use their phones during class with the teacher’s consent for educational purposes to augment learning only.

  • Phones should be turned off or placed on “silent” modes during class time when not being used to augment learning in the classroom.

  • During class time, students are expected to keep their phones in their pockets or backpacks unless they are being utilized for educational purposes with the teacher’s approval.

  • Headphones are only permitted to be used in class with the permission of the classroom teacher.

  • Phone usage for personal purposes during lunch breaks or spare periods is allowed, provided it does not cause disruptions for other students engaged in classroom learning.

  • No pictures, videos, or audio recordings are permitted anywhere on school property with a phone, or any other device, without the permission of a teacher and the informed consent of the other person.

As we delve into the intricate and politicized landscape of cellphone usage policies in schools, it’s crucial for parents to understand our nuanced approaches tailored to each educational level. From elementary to high school, the above noted considerations prioritize academic focus, student welfare, and digital literacy. 

In elementary schools, a firm prohibition policy ensures minimal distractions during crucial learning hours, with exceptions made for specific needs. Middle schools adopt a hybrid model, gradually introducing responsible cellphone use while maintaining strict boundaries. Notably, eighth grade serves as a transition phase, allowing controlled use under teacher discretion. Finally, high schools embrace a more flexible guiding approach, encouraging cellphone use as a learning tool with appropriate digital etiquette.

We believe that the grade level breakdowns outlined above present a balanced, sensible, comprehensive, and reasonable strategy for incorporating phones into school settings, that are grounded in sound evidence-based research. Our grade level breakdowns aim to foster a learning-friendly atmosphere, while simultaneously steering students towards developing responsible digital literacy practices and habits as they progress through their academic pursuits from kindergarten to grade 12. It provides developmental responsibility combined with personal accountability.

Digital Food For Thought

The White Hatter

References:

1/ https://thewhitehatter.ca/blog/why-minimalist-phones-are-better-choices-for-pre-teens-and-younger-teens-right-tech-at-the-right-time/

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