Are teens too distracted by their phones during the school day?

A study by Common Sense found that kids 13-17 years old picked up their phone, on average, 100 times a day. Nearly all participants checked their phone at least once during the school day. TikTok was used, on average, for almost two hours per day. Link to a Scripps News article about the study here.

"This report makes it abundantly clear that teens are struggling to manage their phone use, which is taking a serious toll on their ability to focus and overall mental health," said James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media. 

Limiting cell phone time appears easier said than done. More than 66% of those who participated in the study said they "sometimes" or "often" find it difficult to stop using their devices. 

To combat this addiction, and to help students focus not only on academics, but their surroundings and fellow classmates, many schools are implementing cellphone bans. This year in Salem, Massachusetts, students are now required to put their cellphones in a locked pouch during the day. Link to the article here.

At the end of a recent school day at Salem High, students walked with their heads up and eyes forward as the sound of conversation echoed through the cinderblock hallways.

It's a far cry from what was the usual school day scenario especially after the pandemic: Junior Rocco Ryan said he'd typically travel the halls looking down at his cellphone, sometimes bumping into his peers.

"Last year, when you were in the hallway, everyone was on their phone looking down," he said.

Ryan was initially against the cellphone ban, but now he approves of it. "The fact that you have no choice to go on your phone, you have to pay attention in class. It's going to lead to more success for me, so I don't mind it at all now."

These unhealthy cellphone habits may have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Guidance counselor Brad Maloon [at Collins Middle School in Massachusetts] said students weren't socializing with each other as much in the halls after students returned from the COVID-19 pandemic-related school building closures. He described phones as "a social crutch" for kids.

"There was a definite dependence when the students got back," Maloon said. "We were saying we need to get them back on learning full time and not thinking about what text message or Snapchat notification is going to go off in your pocket."

But after the middle school students started locking their phones in these pouches, the change in student behaviors was dramatic.

Tom Bennett, who describes himself on Twxttxr as a professor of school behavior, claims that school cellphone bans have worked well in the UK.

What does it say about me, or my country, that the first downside I think of when contemplating a school cellphone ban is that kids need their phones in case of a school active shooter?