The Screenagers team searched for data on school cell phone policies five years ago and realized there wasn't any. So in 2017, Screenagers conducted a national survey, which resulted in 1,200 middle school parents providing responses. The responses were shared in a CNN op-ed.
According to the parents, 55% of middle schools allowed kids to carry their cell phones all day despite the fact that more than 80% of parents did not want their kids using their cell phones at school. And in research since, the team has discovered that having phones away during school has a positive impact on students' learning, mental health and social lives. Thus, the Screenagers team created the Away For The Day webpage to advocate for phone-free campuses.
Studies have found that when phones are away, test scores increase. They've also concluded that when phones are present, students who are already struggling in school will struggle even more, meaning that when phones are out, the gap between high and low-achieving students becomes even wider.
Teens who spend more time on social media are also more likely to report symptoms of depression. When students engage in in-person time with friends, peers and mentors, their mood increases.
Middle and high schools have always been sites of drama and conflict, but the presence of social media amplifies the tensions between students even more.
“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, any of which cause stress and anxiety during the school day.” — William Dorritie, superintendent
“Since [Away for the Day], we’ve continued to have our share of cell phone drama, but it is very much reduced and often not during the confines of the school day." — Ryan Wilson, principal
When a student is receiving rude messages on Snapchat or made aware of a group chat they were left out of, it can become very hard to focus on anything else, especially school.
Students who have social anxiety might use their device as a crutch throughout the day, relying on it to avoid uncomfortable interactions with peers. Without having to face the discomfort, these students never have a chance to grow or conquer their social anxiety.
The Away For The Day website offers even more resources, research and testimonials on what happens when phones are out of sight and mind during the school day. Check out the website for tools to help you in the process of bringing an AFTD policy to your school.
While a lot of progress has been made in the five years since the survey, 22% of schools today still do not have rules about phones in the classroom. There is still a lot of work to be done.