KIRO NEWSRADIO OPINION

Angela Poe Russell: More evidence schools would be wise to lock up cell phones

Jun 29, 2024, 6:28 AM | Updated: 3:48 pm

cell phones schools...

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

As more schools grapple with how to regulate students and their cell phones, a Seattle summer program officially took the leap this week. Already, they’re noticing a difference.

This is the movement I’ve been waiting for! And I’d argue it’s one we needed yesterday.

Earlier this month, a middle school in Seattle, Hamilton International, announced that coming this fall, students’ phones would be locked up during the school day.

More on Seattle schools’ phone ban: 2 Seattle schools to say goodbye to cell phones in the fall

According to NBC, in the last eight years, school districts in 41 states have purchased the technology to do so.

This year, my daughter is participating in Seattle’s Teen Summer Musical. They always discourage phone use, but this year they took a hard stance by collecting cell phones each morning. I wanted to know more about the tipping point.

“We’re a 10-week program and, where it would normally take a cast two weeks to gel when they were dealing with their phones, it made it about a four-week process,” Seattle’s Teen Summer Musical’s director Isiah Anderson, Jr. said. “They were literally in their own little world.”

So this year, they went all in. Unless there was an official medical exception, phones had to be turned in.

“I think the option is your child can keep their phones, if you keep them home,” Anderson, Jr. said.”

The program is in its first week, so I expected this piece to be more focused on what drove the decision. But turns out, they are already seeing positive results.

“Angela, it’s crazy. The production team and I were talking. It’s just Day Two and it feels like Week Two,” Anderson, Jr. said. “Yesterday was a bonding. We were like ‘Did this just start?’ No phones, nobody’s complaining. It’s beautiful.”

More from Angela Poe Russell: We need to end the Pride flag debate, take real action

Look I know this technology thing seemed like a good idea in the beginning. We brought tech into the classroom. We started making students read some of their textbooks off a screen. Now add social media and smartphones.

But the research is mounting and more teens than ever are struggling with mental health issues. Social Psychologist Jonathan Haidt wrote a book about it called The Anxious Generation. He calls the period between 2010-2015 “the great rewiring of childhood.”

Folks, we are in a crisis and desperate times call for desperate measures. What are we waiting for? This should be on every school’s agenda now. Lock up the phones. Give these kids a break. And like Seattle’s Teen Summer Musical, the payoff might come sooner than you think.

Angela Poe Russell is a local media personality and a fill-in host on KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of her stories here.

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