Restrict their use? Take them away altogether? Schools are struggling to adapt to the changing impact of technology on our youth. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror

Campbell River students’ cell phone use a growing concern

School policies struggle to keep up with growing trend of eyes trained on screens

Braden Majic

Carihi Mirror

In a high school of over 800 students, the only thing nearly everyone has is a cell phone, and their purpose and use in school is a continuous talking point.

Students communicate with one another through apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook at all times during the day. Some say it’s becoming a problem, while others say the vitual connections they provide are important.

“Social media is a huge, huge part of our lives,” Psychology 11 student Emma Schulz says.

Schulz and another Grade 11 student put out an online survey and had face-to-face conversations with students on what their personal usage with the phone is for as a chosen topic through a Psychology 11 assignment.

“I think that a lot of times people will generalize phone usage for texting or going on Instagram, but it was interesting because we did find that a lot of people are using it for different purposes,” Schulz says. “It is a lot broader.”

Through the online survey as part of the pair’s assignment, which collected around a class-size of responses, social networking took up the majority of the surveyed individual’s time.

Other uses were entertainment like Youtube and music streaming apps.

42.9 per cent of respondents said that they spent two hours on their phone a day but 21.4 per cent said three hours and the same for four hours a day.

“Unless you are [surveying] every single person in the school, you are never going to get a 100 per cent accurate reading,” Schulz says

She added that the pool of survey takers was varied which naturally provided varied responses, but the survey helped give these two students a snapshot into how some students spend their day on their phones.

The use of cell phones is a never-ending conversation, and the staff cell phone committee is all over the topic, especially Food Studies teacher Zoe Tehennepe.

“As a result of a couple other teachers thinking ‘this is officially a problem… there should be a little group of people addressing [cell phones],’ [the committee] just formed in September,” she says.

The committee’s goal is to address the staff’s needs and establish the thoughts of Carihi and how teachers feel about the devices that seem to always be in the palm of students’ hands.

“Several teachers have established effective management policies in individual classrooms, which aid students in learning self-moderation with regard to devices,” Tehennepe says.

As it stands in the Carihi Student Guidelines and Expectations from the start of the 2018/19 school year, “cell phones, or any personal communication devices are not to be on or used during class time without explicit approval of the classroom teacher.”

Some confusion does surround this policy, but the adopted practice in the school currently is for each teacher to establish their own rules with their classroom.

This might include an “out-of-sight” rule, or allow for a few minute cell phone breaks during class, or other practices that work.

Earlier in the school year, conversation amongst the committee of disallowing certain sites to run on the school wifi had been brought up and a number of teachers mentioned the possibility of this change to their students before schools closed for the winter break.

“When we started investigating it, we sort of examined the wifi bandwidth to see how much of it is taken up by things like Facebook and it is a massive percentage,” Tehennepe said.

But disallowing certain sites or applications is no longer a consideration, at least for the current school year, and the “explicit approval of the classroom teacher” policy still remains.

A few years ago in the school library lab space, there were strict and specific rules in regards to sites that were not to be accessed at all on school computers such as Hotmail, eBay, chatrooms, and even Youtube.

Old posters kept in the library learning commons office highlight this ideology of disallowing certain sites some time ago.

The staff committee is continuously working to get out a survey to all staff to figure out what the overall feel is and what the best steps forward are.

Tehennepe is also the mastermind behind the third annual Ditch the Device challenge, where students give their phones away for a certain amount of time for a chance to win prizes.

“My personal goal for Ditch the Device this year is to extend it to the other three upper level schools,” Tehennepe says.

The awareness event is expected take place again some time in May.

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