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Should schools ban their students from using cellphones?

Can school cellphone bans improve mental health?
Can school cellphone bans improve mental health? 02:01

Nearly all American teenagers have access to a smartphone, but studies show that too much screen time can have a negative effect on a child's mental health, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Schools are trying to help — by banning cellphones while class is in session.

Buxton School in rural Massachusetts banned smartphones for students and teachers in September. The students still have access to tablets and laptops during class, but the school's director, Franny Shuker-Haines, said she wanted to give them a break from the constant demands of technology.

She said the move is "allowing them to control when and where they decide to engage with these apps."

Students and teachers are allowed to bring phones that don't have internet access, but the school has found that kids don't use those as much, because they aren't as easy to use, or as enticing.

High school student Sabra Gouveia said, "even though sure I would enjoy scrolling through TikTok on my phone, I have more time to dedicate to like art specifically." 

Studies have shown overuse of technology can lead to less sleep, disengagement from friends and family, emotional stunting and can cause depression and anxiety.

"Why are we giving kids stimulants during the day that disrupt all the good aspects of learning, particularly at a time where they have to develop their abstract thinking?" said psychologist Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair.

Adair says parents can play a role too at home by limiting screen time with parental controls, putting their own phones away and explaining why limits are important.

Buxton School is part of a growing number of institutions banning smartphones. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 77% of public schools prohibit cellphones.

Since 2019, Forest Hills School District in Michigan has banned phones for its 9,000 students — even at lunch. High school social studies teacher Rick Kelbel said he believes every district can ban phones.

"No one has to worry about missing out on what's going on in their cellphone because everyone's off of it," he said. "I think all schools need a guideline in place to make that happen."

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