A Call to Action—It’s Time for Schools and Parents to Work Together to Address the Smartphone Issue
Studies on educational topics often involve a great deal of raw data, and as a school administrator, I enjoy sorting through all kinds of charts and numbers that shed light on student learning. But recently, I was struck by this particular statistic from Apple: typical iPhone owners activate their phone eighty times per day. Multiply that by 365 and you have close to 30,000 uses per year! It is little wonder that most iPhone users can’t imagine life without this technology in their pocket or by their side. We don’t know all of the impacts this degree of smartphone use has on our psyche. But it is obvious smartphone users have formed powerful habits with their devices to the point where they are ubiquitous in their experience and navigation of the world.

As I have written in other EducationUV posts, this degree of device usage comes with a cost. We know that anxiety levels, particularly with youth, have dramatically increased since 2011, when the market for smartphones became saturated. And now research suggests that the chemistry in our brains is changing as a result, too. As people grow dependent on this technology, it decreases the capacity to problem solve, develop logical reasoning, and be creative. When we continually depend on gadgets for information, we decrease our ability to turn what we briefly read on the screen into long-term knowledge that is stored in our memory and used to better understand the world. And of course, teachers and school administrators will tell you that social skills and relationships are dramatically impacted, too.

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These are just a few of the reasons my school has banned smartphones during the academic day and why we are working with parents to develop guidelines for outside-of-school usage, too. The forms that these recommendations will ultimately take and how they will impact our students is yet to be seen. But the stakes are too high for us to wait and do nothing. We feel it is our responsibility and obligation to act in the best interests of our students, and that means reviewing relevant research, collecting resources, and beginning to draft recommendations for digital media best practices that will help our students develop healthy digital media habits. 


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