Away For The Day

High Schools Get Students to Put Their Phones Away

Delaney Ruston, MD
December 3, 2019


A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting on a curb in Colorado with my daughter, Tessa, when a mother and her daughter came over and the mother said, "I just wanted to thank you so much for Screenagers. And one thing, in particular, has been so great — With your work on phones in schools, our school changed so that it now requires phones to be put away for the day.”

I told her that I was so glad to hear of the change and she told me how it was all going. Later, I asked if I could film her talking about the change since at our Away For The Day website we have videos of people talking about their schools making changes. She said she would be happy to and you can see the short video here.

Originally our Away For the Day initiative was about encouraging middle schools to have students store their phones in lockers or backpacks for the whole day. We hoped elementary schools would already have such policies. We did not explicitly discuss high schools very much on the site. Now we are changing and adding in high schools—whether it be .a true Away For The Day model or what we are now calling a modified Away For The Day.

Let me explain. Some high schools do have the full Away For the Day policy, in which they require that phones be out of reach for the entire day (such as kept in a locker). We have seen this more with private vs public highschools but can be found in both.

Meanwhile, many other high schools have a “Modified Away For the Day” policies in which phones are entirely away during the class period in all classrooms, in a hanging phone pocket organizer, or away in a backpack. And then students retrieve their phones at the end of the period and are allowed to go on them during passing periods and at lunch.

We believe that Away For The Day or Modified Away For The Day are both policies that benefit students and school climates overall. So we have now more explicitly changed the mission of Away For The Day to include high schools (and of course, elementary schools). For this reason, we have changed our Away For The Day website to more fully include high schools and this Modified approach.  

The website has all sorts of materials which teachers, parents, counselors, and others are using to approach their school or school district to advocate for better phone policies.

Many administrators are taking control and banning them in their schools. Some school districts are banning cell phones in all their schools. Forest Hills School District in Grand Rapids, Michigan, serves about 10,000 students, and this school year Superintendent Dan Behm instituted a phone away for the day policy in all schools, including their high schools. The rule also states that students cannot use their phones during passing periods or lunch. Behr told a Grand Rapid's local online newspaper, MLive, "We see this as a way to strengthen the positive aspects of social and emotional learning."

Recently I was working at a local café near a high school in a suburb of Chicago where they were hosting a Screenagers NEXT CHAPTER event later that day. As students came into the cafe at lunch and after school, I talked to them about their high school phone policy. Many told me that several of their teachers have tried to have phones put away, but often they remain visible on desks and in hands. Some teachers don’t say anything about putting phones away, and in those classes, phone use runs rampant.

One student (who told me she was on social media "24 hours a day") said that she sees cell phones out a lot. When I asked her, "If you were the teacher, what policy would you have?" she answered, "I think I would have everyone put their phone in a basket during class."

Then I went to the screening. Before it started, a teacher wanted to tell me how frustrated he was about the phone policy in his school and how much time he spends reminding kids to put their devices away. His policy was to have them away, while other teachers are more lax about phones being out. When I asked why he thought his school did not do what many high schools have done, which is to have phones put into shoe bags during class, he said he suspected there is a fear that the phones would get stolen. On our Away For The Day website, we have a page of "common pushbacks" with answers.

The reality is that we do not hear about theft happening at high schools that have a phones-in-pocket approach. Phones are password-protected, many are trackable, and teachers know the students in their class.

At a public high school that has a 1-to-1 laptop program where each student has a device a teacher told me, "We still have the issue of students being distracted on the tablet even if we have phones put away but having one less distraction is huge! Don't discount it. Cell phones are offering so many tempting distractions, connections, and entertainment. Taking that away is important. Anyway, you can decrease distraction is a win."

We started AwayForTheDay.org to help schools advocate for phones away policies at school. We do not think it is right to put warm chocolate chip cookies in the hands of teens and say don't eat them. And then if some do, getting mad at them does not seem right.

Many students can resist the temptation to check phones during class, but many cannot. They suffer the most. They have a harder time resisting checking their phones during class, and then contend with that same issue when they try to get school work done outside of class. Requiring phones to be physically away from them during class actually gives them a mental break.  

And let's not forget that several studies show the obvious to be true — that cell phones can increase the chance of lower emotional well being and academic learning. Click here to see data.

Over this winter break, if you want to get the work going in your school, we have a toolkit to help you get started. Take a pledge here if you plan to do something to get phones out of your kids' (or your) school.

Here are a few questions to get the conversation going for this Tech Talk Tuesday:

  1. What is the phone policy at your school?
  2. Do you think it is fair?
  3. What do you think the policy should be? And why?
  4. Would you read one study on this site and share the results?

If you want to host a screening of the movie in your community, please fill out this form.

Take a look here to see if there’s a screening near you.

*We would love for you to share this TTT any way that works for you, whether that’s on social media or via a newsletter. If you want to send it out in your newsletter we just ask that you credit us and link to our website, and let us know at lisa@screenagersmovie.com.

Do you organize professional development in schools? We now have a 6-hour, 3-part training module. Request more information here Professional Development.

Stay in touch with the Screenagers community on Facebook, Twitter and leave comments below.


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Away For The Day

High Schools Get Students to Put Their Phones Away

Delaney Ruston, MD
December 3, 2019


A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting on a curb in Colorado with my daughter, Tessa, when a mother and her daughter came over and the mother said, "I just wanted to thank you so much for Screenagers. And one thing, in particular, has been so great — With your work on phones in schools, our school changed so that it now requires phones to be put away for the day.”

I told her that I was so glad to hear of the change and she told me how it was all going. Later, I asked if I could film her talking about the change since at our Away For The Day website we have videos of people talking about their schools making changes. She said she would be happy to and you can see the short video here.

Originally our Away For the Day initiative was about encouraging middle schools to have students store their phones in lockers or backpacks for the whole day. We hoped elementary schools would already have such policies. We did not explicitly discuss high schools very much on the site. Now we are changing and adding in high schools—whether it be .a true Away For The Day model or what we are now calling a modified Away For The Day.

Let me explain. Some high schools do have the full Away For the Day policy, in which they require that phones be out of reach for the entire day (such as kept in a locker). We have seen this more with private vs public highschools but can be found in both.

Meanwhile, many other high schools have a “Modified Away For the Day” policies in which phones are entirely away during the class period in all classrooms, in a hanging phone pocket organizer, or away in a backpack. And then students retrieve their phones at the end of the period and are allowed to go on them during passing periods and at lunch.

We believe that Away For The Day or Modified Away For The Day are both policies that benefit students and school climates overall. So we have now more explicitly changed the mission of Away For The Day to include high schools (and of course, elementary schools). For this reason, we have changed our Away For The Day website to more fully include high schools and this Modified approach.  

The website has all sorts of materials which teachers, parents, counselors, and others are using to approach their school or school district to advocate for better phone policies.

Many administrators are taking control and banning them in their schools. Some school districts are banning cell phones in all their schools. Forest Hills School District in Grand Rapids, Michigan, serves about 10,000 students, and this school year Superintendent Dan Behm instituted a phone away for the day policy in all schools, including their high schools. The rule also states that students cannot use their phones during passing periods or lunch. Behr told a Grand Rapid's local online newspaper, MLive, "We see this as a way to strengthen the positive aspects of social and emotional learning."

Recently I was working at a local café near a high school in a suburb of Chicago where they were hosting a Screenagers NEXT CHAPTER event later that day. As students came into the cafe at lunch and after school, I talked to them about their high school phone policy. Many told me that several of their teachers have tried to have phones put away, but often they remain visible on desks and in hands. Some teachers don’t say anything about putting phones away, and in those classes, phone use runs rampant.

One student (who told me she was on social media "24 hours a day") said that she sees cell phones out a lot. When I asked her, "If you were the teacher, what policy would you have?" she answered, "I think I would have everyone put their phone in a basket during class."

Then I went to the screening. Before it started, a teacher wanted to tell me how frustrated he was about the phone policy in his school and how much time he spends reminding kids to put their devices away. His policy was to have them away, while other teachers are more lax about phones being out. When I asked why he thought his school did not do what many high schools have done, which is to have phones put into shoe bags during class, he said he suspected there is a fear that the phones would get stolen. On our Away For The Day website, we have a page of "common pushbacks" with answers.

The reality is that we do not hear about theft happening at high schools that have a phones-in-pocket approach. Phones are password-protected, many are trackable, and teachers know the students in their class.

At a public high school that has a 1-to-1 laptop program where each student has a device a teacher told me, "We still have the issue of students being distracted on the tablet even if we have phones put away but having one less distraction is huge! Don't discount it. Cell phones are offering so many tempting distractions, connections, and entertainment. Taking that away is important. Anyway, you can decrease distraction is a win."

We started AwayForTheDay.org to help schools advocate for phones away policies at school. We do not think it is right to put warm chocolate chip cookies in the hands of teens and say don't eat them. And then if some do, getting mad at them does not seem right.

Many students can resist the temptation to check phones during class, but many cannot. They suffer the most. They have a harder time resisting checking their phones during class, and then contend with that same issue when they try to get school work done outside of class. Requiring phones to be physically away from them during class actually gives them a mental break.  

And let's not forget that several studies show the obvious to be true — that cell phones can increase the chance of lower emotional well being and academic learning. Click here to see data.

Over this winter break, if you want to get the work going in your school, we have a toolkit to help you get started. Take a pledge here if you plan to do something to get phones out of your kids' (or your) school.

Here are a few questions to get the conversation going for this Tech Talk Tuesday:

  1. What is the phone policy at your school?
  2. Do you think it is fair?
  3. What do you think the policy should be? And why?
  4. Would you read one study on this site and share the results?

If you want to host a screening of the movie in your community, please fill out this form.

Take a look here to see if there’s a screening near you.

*We would love for you to share this TTT any way that works for you, whether that’s on social media or via a newsletter. If you want to send it out in your newsletter we just ask that you credit us and link to our website, and let us know at lisa@screenagersmovie.com.

Do you organize professional development in schools? We now have a 6-hour, 3-part training module. Request more information here Professional Development.

Stay in touch with the Screenagers community on Facebook, Twitter and leave comments below.


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