Cell phones have become so much more than just phones in today’s world. They are mini-computers, cameras, calendars, note-takers and so much more and we carry them around in our pockets all day, every day. The presence of cell phones in schools has been a topic of discussion for the better part of a decade as children began using cell phones at younger ages and the number of cell phones in the United States escalated from 62.6 million to 224.3 million in just 7 years (Statista, 2018). Common Sense Media, which focuses on the impact of media and entertainment on kids and families, also reported that in 2018, 89% of teens own a smartphone and 70% of teens use social media multiple times per day. In the same report, 57% of teens agreed that using social media often distracts them when they should be doing homework and 54% of teens agreed that social media distracts them from the people they are with (Common Sense Media, 2018).

Cornerstone Schools is hoping to change that, at least during school hours. Ernestine Sanders, the Executive Director of Education for Cornerstone Schools, recently implemented a “no cell phone policy” at the Health + Technology High School, and it isn’t just for students. From the first day of the 2018 school year, the new policy has been enforced: cell phones are not to be visible at all during the school day, and that includes back pockets and in the hallways between classes. “At the front door there are signs that say this is a ‘no cell phone zone’ so everyone in the building knows that once you walk in, your cell phone has to be out of sight. Everyone is on board with the policy; the faculty, principal, and deans too,” Ms. Sanders says. Principal Jared Davis is sure to remind students of the policy as needed, and enforce the consequences (storing your cell phone in the office for the day) if required. Now that the policy has been in place for more than a month, Ms. Sanders sees that the whole culture in the school has shifted. “In the study pods, students used to be on their cell phones the entire time and teachers had to check on each one to be sure they were doing their work. Now, they don’t have that problem. Once we removed the distraction, students focused more on the work.”

Though some sources argue that a strict “no phone” policy in schools can hinder learning in the fast-paced technological world that we live in, Ms. Sanders is quick to mention that once students were used to not having their phones in-hand at all times, they were permitted to use their phones when specifically instructed by their teachers for a project or task in class. “There is a place for technology, we are not saying there is no place for it, but it has to be useful to your educational journey while you are in school, that’s all,” Ms. Sanders adds.

Principal Davis mentions the surprising feedback he has gotten regarding the policy so far, saying students and teachers appreciate it more than you might expect. “When they aren’t checking their Instagram all day, the students interact more with their teachers and each other, which is the point.” One female student, who has chosen to remain anonymous, shared, “I must admit… I’m able to focus more when I’m not putting so much of my focus on my cell phone and social media.” Another student admitted that he used to play music all the time during class, thinking it was helping him, but when he stopped using the music apps on his phone, his grades got better almost immediately. “I even had a teacher come up to me and say how much he appreciated the policy because it minimizes distractions and helps him with classroom engagement,” Mr. Davis adds. The new cell phone policy represents a focused beginning to a new school year at Cornerstone Health + Technology High School and will also be adopted by the other four K-8 Cornerstone schools during the 2018-2019 school year.

(Image Source: Common Sense Media, 2018.)