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More Massachusetts schools banning cell phones in classrooms this year

More Massachusetts schools banning cell phones in classrooms this year
More Massachusetts schools banning cell phones in classrooms this year 02:53

WILLIAMSTOWN - Some Massachusetts schools are giving cell phones a break this year.

Phones have been banned at the Buxton School in Williamstown in western Massachusetts. The boarding school will not allow students or teachers to have them on campus.

"I don't think we need to wait any longer to see enough evidence of the mental health toll these devices are taking on teenagers," senior director Franny Shuker-Haines told WBZ-TV.

She calls the apps addictive and thinks they create division.

"Social media, especially social media as its delivered by the smartphone, asks for exactly the opposite attributes," said Shuker-Haines. "You're meant to respond quickly and harshly. You're meant to extend conflict. You're meant to promote the most inflammatory or outrageous idea."

She believes the move will bring about a sort of retro escape that many teens seek out, but cannot manage to find on their own.

"I do think that the only way young people will be able to choose what kind of relationship they have with these devices is having some period of their year where they are not using them," she told WBZ.

And Buxton is not alone. Recently, Dartmouth High School decided students must give up their phones at the beginning of class each day.

And these types of moves may be coming at a critical time for young people. A survey by Common Sense Media found screen time was up 17% among teenagers since the pandemic began. And those numbers are even higher when it came to communities of color.

"Cell phone usage is really associated with a lot of negative things for all of us," notes psychologist Ellen Braaten. "But especially for teens."

Braaten agrees the focus needs to be on learning in the classroom and the research backs it up.

"It can worsen our mood. It can affect our attention, our emotional symptoms. How we feel about ourselves. And it just cuts into healthier activities," she told WBZ.

Marlboro High School Spanish teacher Gerry Padilla has implemented a so-called hotel in his classroom for the past few years. At the beginning of class, each student has a specifically numbered slot to put their phone in and they can retrieve it after the bell rings.

Padilla has found great success with the hotel.

"It just helps them stay more focused," Padilla told WBZ. "Before it was more social media or this one was texting. Or meet me in the bathroom or something's going on in the hallway. So, that has definitely helped students stay more focused."

Padilla also says he tries to make a game out of it to keep it fun for the students. He said he's willing to work with each student if they need to answer a call or text that could be from their families or work related.

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