Away For The Day

Good news for cell phones in schools

Delaney Ruston, MD
August 23, 2022
Teen girl on phone in class

The good news is that people are making positive changes! It has been four years now since my team and I launched The Away For The Day (AFTD) campaign to help people get sound cell phone policies into schools.

The research is clear that when phone use is limited at schools, students do better socially, academically, and emotionally. Given the enormous increases in screen time and social isolation over the past two years, as well as the jump in mental health problems, ensuring healthy phone policies is more important than ever.

Today, I am sharing some wonderful examples of how the AFTD Campaign has led to real changes in schools across the country.

Most importantly, this is an invitation to consider rallying friends, PTAs, fellow teachers and counselors, and others to go to their school and advocate for changes. Or go by yourself and advocate for change! And If you are a principal or another administrative lead, now is the time to get moving. We have lots of resources on our website, but this link brings you to our “toolkit.” 

The website provides examples of policies, responses to pushback and myths, research to show why this campaign is evidence-based, posters, videos, and much more. If you are interested in reading more blogs about Away For The Day on our Screenagers Movie site, you can find them here.

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Example 1:

In 2020, Oak Park and River Forest High School in Illinois created a committee intended to help the school transition to an AFTD policy. 

Dan Wolman, a history teacher, explained how the committee surveyed parents, teachers, and students, and he shared some alarming results from the student survey. He said, “What the kids told us they were using their phones for often violated our codes of conduct — things like sharing homework or taking videos in the locker room. It showed their thoughts on what is acceptable if they were willing to share this in the survey. They don’t always even know what is acceptable.” The results of the survey showed how necessary the new policy really was. 

Example 2: 

West Middle School in Michigan adopted an AFTD policy in 2019 and filled the hallways with posters from our Away For The Day webpage. The school’s principal, Mrs. Kulczycki, talked about the impacts of the new policy, stating, “I think that our students seem happier, they seem more focused on interacting with people who are in front of them, they seem less pressured about what’s being said about them or about social media stuff.” We’ve heard similar reactions from educators all over. 

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Example 3:

We talked to William Dorritie, a district superintendent in New York, about how phone presence can impact campus environments in his district. He told us, “I can say without a doubt that the vast majority of student conflicts we deal with on a day-to-day basis originate from social media. Students are constantly trying to check their phones for the latest social media posts, many of which cause stress and anxiety during the school day.”

Dorritie admitted that before instating an AFTD policy across his schools, he was actually resistant to the idea. He figured that phones were too ubiquitous to try to limit and that students should learn how to manage them properly. However, it became clear that the conflicts and tension smartphones were creating on campus were not worth the trouble, and he began to advocate for an AFTD policy. He explained to us, “While I still believe in the proper use of technology to advance teaching and learning, I think that instituting a 1-to-1 device program where the district has control over the network is a far more effective tool than allowing students to use their cell phones during the school day.”

Make sure you discuss this topic with your kids or students and share the website with them.

Questions to get the conversation started:

  1. What would be the main reason you would want phones AFTD in an elementary school?
  2. How about for a middle school?
  3. When do you feel most connected to friends at school? 
  4. What classroom conditions do you need to focus best on your schoolwork? 

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Away For The Day

Good news for cell phones in schools

Delaney Ruston, MD
August 23, 2022
Teen girl on phone in class

The good news is that people are making positive changes! It has been four years now since my team and I launched The Away For The Day (AFTD) campaign to help people get sound cell phone policies into schools.

The research is clear that when phone use is limited at schools, students do better socially, academically, and emotionally. Given the enormous increases in screen time and social isolation over the past two years, as well as the jump in mental health problems, ensuring healthy phone policies is more important than ever.

Today, I am sharing some wonderful examples of how the AFTD Campaign has led to real changes in schools across the country.

Most importantly, this is an invitation to consider rallying friends, PTAs, fellow teachers and counselors, and others to go to their school and advocate for changes. Or go by yourself and advocate for change! And If you are a principal or another administrative lead, now is the time to get moving. We have lots of resources on our website, but this link brings you to our “toolkit.” 

The website provides examples of policies, responses to pushback and myths, research to show why this campaign is evidence-based, posters, videos, and much more. If you are interested in reading more blogs about Away For The Day on our Screenagers Movie site, you can find them here.

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