Dear Ms. Smartphone: My pre-teen asked me to write you. In her new school, she is required to leave her phone in her backpack, and not bring it into the classroom. The backpack has to be left in the hallway or in a locker. My daughter says this is not fair. What do you think? M.Casee, Bolinas
Dear M. Casee: Here we are in late August, and your daughter raises the vital back-to-school issue. There is no standard or right- and-wrong here. It’s at the discretion of the school.
Some countries, like France, Australia, and Israel institute bans during school, but other countries, like Japan, have rescinded the suspension. In the U.S., some school district use Yondr bags. There are compelling reasons to ban smartphones in the classroom: studies find that students who use them do not score as well on standardized tests; they are distracting during classroom lessons; and students can use them after class to post off-color pictures, sometimes bullying ones, from the gym, lunchroom, etc.
That said, there are also positive reasons to allow smartphones in the schools. The primary one is that smartphones are the new tool, and students need to be educated on how to use operate them intelligently and mindfully. In previous posts, I have called for provisional phones… schools, libraries, and parents must provide “beginner’s lessons.” It will take a few more years. Currently, only a few teachers have developed a curriculum that use the phone as an educational tool- for example, civics classes that explore the nature of pro and con sentiments.
None of this will resolve your daughter’s cry that it’s not fair, but you need to remind her that principals and teachers set the rules… that’s the first lesson. As a parent, you should ask why she would need to have a phone out during school lessons. It is certainly not to reach you or her friends. And, to set a good example, maybe the teachers and school staff should be phone-free too.