Use the following sample letter to encourage your school to adopt an "Away For The Day" policy.
We are urging you to change our school’s current cell phone policy to one where students put their phones “Away For The Day.” Students have a greater chance of doing better academically and emotionally when they are not tempted to be on their phones.
Schools that have made the change from allowing phone use during passing periods and at lunch to “Away For The Day,” have reported an increase in academic achievement and a decrease in emotional distractions that can arise from social media.
Matthew Burnham, a middle school principal in El Cerrito, CA, says “When we took the phones away, we had very little pushback from the kids, and all of those distractions and problems went away. That’s a marked change from the situation before the prohibition.”
As a follow-up to her award-winning film, “Screenagers: Growing up in the Digital Age,” Dr. Delaney Ruston and the Screenagers team conducted a national survey, completed earlier this year. More than 1,200 middle school parents in the United States responded, and two particularly striking findings emerged:
1. 55% of middle schools now allow kids to carry cell phones all day. That number is higher for public vs private schools. Public middle schools are twice as likely to allow carrying and using phones compared to private schools.
2. The majority of parents (82%) do not want their kids to use cell phones during the school day.
Why "Away For The Day" benefits students:
1. Cell phones overpower self-control
We know that the control center for impulse control, the frontal lobe, is not fully developed in middle school-aged children. When people say, “Kids just need to learn how to handle phone use in places like classrooms,” we are setting many kids up for failure. We will help students more by giving them self-control challenges in which they can succeed.
2. Phones interfere with academic performance
There are no studies on the impact of access to phones on middle schoolers’ academic achievement, but the studies on college students are discouraging. Students who interact with their cell phones in class perform worse on tests—often a full letter grade or more. In fact, just having phones within reach can cause academic performance to decline, whether they are used or not.
3. Phones compromise emotional well-being
Visit any middle school where cell phones are allowed at lunch or break, and you will see heads down everywhere you look. Kids often retreat into their phones to avoid feeling anxious while socializing.
While cyberbullying gets a lot of attention, too many students face micro-emotional hits when they are left out of group chats or see photos that trigger “a compare and despair reaction.” When this happens during the school day, it can make it very difficult to focus on school work.
Studies have shown increasing rates of depression in adolescents, especially in girls. Meanwhile, youth who spend more time spent on social media have a greater likelihood of exhibiting depressive symptoms, and it is worse with middle schoolers than with high schoolers.
Importantly, the same study finds that that face-to-face time with friends strongly correlates with less depressive feelings. Creating environments that promote such interactions is a smart public health move.
4. “Away For The Day” policies deliver improvements
Schools that changed their policy from allowing cell phones to prohibiting them saw exam scores rise by 6%, according to a study from the United Kingdom.
Please take all this into consideration and change (your school name here)’s cell phone policy to “Away For The Day.”