One afternoon last month, hundreds of students from Orlando’s Timber Creek High School came to the campus’s expansive central courtyard to hang out and eat lunch. For members of the extremely online generation, their activities were certainly in line.
Dozens of people sat in small groups, chatting animatedly with each other. Others played pickleball on a makeshift lunchtime court. There were no cellphones in sight – and that was no accident.
In May, Florida passed a law requiring public school districts to enforce rules prohibiting students’ cellphone use during class time. This fall, Orange County Public Schools — including Timber Creek High — went even further, banning students from using cellphones for the entire school day.
In interviews, a dozen Orange County parents and students said they supported the rule about no phones during class. But he objected to his district’s strict, day-long restrictions.
Parents said their children should be able to contact them directly during free periods, while students described the all-day ban as unfair and child-promoting.
“They expect us to take responsibility for our own choices,” said Sophia Ferrara, a 12th-grader at Timber Creek who needs to use mobile devices during free periods to take online college classes. “But then they’re taking away our ability to make choices and learn responsibility.”
Like many frustrated parents, public schools across the United States are taking drastic measures to get youngsters off their cellphones. Lawmakers and district leaders argue that stricter restrictions are needed because rampant social media use during school hours is endangering students’ education, well-being and physical safety.
In some schools, youth have planned and Filmed attacks on fellow students And then uploaded the video on platforms like TIC Toc And Instagram, Teachers and principals have warned that social apps such as Snapchat have also become a major distraction problem, causing some students to keep messaging friends during class.
New Florida law requires public schools to prohibit students’ cellphone use during instructional time and block students’ access to social media on district Wi-Fi. It also requires schools to teach students about “how” Social media manipulates behavior,
Under Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida has introduced several controversial rules for public schools, including restricting instruction on gender identity. But the cellphone law has received support across the political spectrum.
“This is a step forward to help protect our youth and our children from the grip of social media,” the state representative said. Brad Yeager, a Republican who sponsored the bill. “It will also create a less distracting classroom and a better learning environment.”
snapchat, Instagram And TIC Toc Each have policies preventing bullying, as well as systems for reporting bullying on their platforms. In a statement, Snapchat’s parent company Snap said it supports efforts by parents and teachers to promote a healthy educational environment, including “limiting students’ access to personal devices during school hours.” “Included.
In a statement, TikTok said that activity such as posting videos of school bullying and violence “violates our community guidelines, and we remove it when we learn of it.” Instagram’s parent company Meta declined to comment.
The TikTok detox implemented for students in Florida is akin to a larger experiment to control young people’s personal technology habits. The law has prompted districts that once gave teachers some leeway on cellphone use in their classrooms to impose strict rules.
A new cellphone policy For example, this year students in Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa have been warned: “We See It – We Take It.”
More restrictive school cellphone rules may have benefits, such as increasing students’ focus on learning. But they can also increase surveillance of students or hinder communication important to teens with family responsibilities or after-school jobs.
It’s unclear how many other schools ban student cellphone use. This is stated in the US Department of Education data published in 2021 About 77 percent schools Non-academic cellphone use is prohibited during school hours.
New rules will be implemented this time in Orange County Public Schools The country’s eighth largest school systemShows how – and why – some districts are stepping up action on their cellphones.
Orange County teachers say that during the pandemic, many students have become deeply attached to their phones. Students rarely looked up from their devices as they walked the school corridors. Some teens secretly filmed their classmates and spread the videos on apps like Snapchat.
“We saw a lot of bullying,” said Mark Wasko, principal of Timber Creek, which serves about 3,600 students. “We had a lot of problems with students trying to post or record things that happened during school hours.”
Orange County teachers like middle school teacher Lisa Rodriguez-Davis were also growing frustrated with students’ frequent use of their phones during class.
“It was getting out of hand,” Ms. Rodriguez-Davis said, describing how students would message each other during class to arrange meetings in the bathroom, where they would film dance videos. “I call them ‘toilet TikToks’.”
To show what the teachers were up against, Ms. Rodriguez-Davis posted Her own TikToks are mimicking her struggles With students and their phones.
After the Florida law took effect in July, Orange County decided to impose even stricter rules. The blanket ban prevents students from using cellphones throughout the school day – even in the time between classes.
In September, the first day the ban went into effect, Timber Creek administrators confiscated more than 100 students’ phones, Mr. Wasko said. After that, seizures decreased rapidly. Phone-related school incidents, such as bullying, have also declined, he said.
Prohibition has made the atmosphere of Timber Creek more rustic and more sensual.
Mr Wasko said students now respond by making eye contact when he greets them. Teachers said students appeared more engaged in class.
“Oh, I love it,” said Timber Creek government teacher Nikita McCaskill. “Students are more talkative and more cooperative.”
Some students said the ban has made interactions with their classmates more authentic.
“Now people can’t really say: ‘Oh, look at me on Instagram.’ ‘That’s me,'” said Peyton Stanley, a 12th-grader at Timber Creek. “It helped people learn to be themselves at school is who they are – rather than who they are online.”
Ms. Stanley said she also found the ban problematic, saying she would feel safer at school if she could keep her cellphone in her pocket and immediately text her mother if she needed to.
Other students said the school felt more like a prison. To call their parents, students now have to go to the front office and ask permission to use the phone, he said.
Surveillance has also been intensified. To enforce the ban, Timber Creek security officer, Lyle Lake, now patrols during lunch time on a golf cart, catching students who violate the ban and taking them to the front office, where they are given the rest of the day. Keep your phone in a locked cabinet for the time being. the school day.
“I usually end up with a cart full of students because I pick up more on the way to the office,” Mr. Lake said, sitting behind the wheel of a black Yamaha golf cart during lunch.
Mr. Lake said he also monitored school security camera feeds for students using cellphones in the hallways and other locations. Students caught may be expelled from class. Repeat violators may be suspended.
Whether the potential benefits of banning cellphones outweigh the costs of curbing students’ limited freedom is not yet known. It is clear that such restrictions are subverting the educational and social norms of the generation raised on cellphones.
Orange County students called the ban regressive, noting that they will no longer be able to check their class schedules during school hours, take pictures of their projects in art class, find their friends at lunch — or even You can’t use your phone to add that new classmates’ phone numbers to their contact lists.
“Imagine that the device that you use on a daily basis to communicate with other people is completely gone,” said Catalina, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at a local middle school. (She and her mother requested that her last name not be used for privacy reasons.) “It feels completely isolating.”