Chatelech Secondary School in British Columbia has reported benefits for students after banning phones in the classroom. It has been in place for the last five months.
“We are seeing improved mental health,” said the school’s counsellor, Tulani Pierce, to the CBC. “We’re seeing decreased bullying, we’re seeing more engagement in class, we’re seeing more social interaction, kids are playing again instead of being on their phones and we’re seeing increased academic success.”
However, Pierce is also clear that this isn’t intended to be a punishment for students. Rather, the students need the school “to provide boundaries around technology” to learn how to balance technology and life.
“So, we are trying to be that balance for kids when they come to school,” Pierce said. She argued that technology isn’t going away, so it’s time to teach students about phone addiction instead of ignoring it.
Pierce did research into the negative impacts of cellphone use when she first noticed the problem. She was inspired by the work of Dr. Shimi Kang, a psychiatrist who trained at Harvard. She also quoted neuroscientist Ramsy Brown.
“Your kid is not weak-willed because he can’t get off his phone,” Brown said to Time Magazine. “Your kid’s brain is being engineered to get him to stay on his phone.”
Patti Bacchus is the former Vancouver School Board chair and has worked in education for a decade. She called the phone ban a “1960s solution to a 2023 problem,” and acknowledged that students might have part-time jobs, family to keep in contact with, or other important reasons to be on their phones.
“I would rather educate and make students become critical thinkers,” Bacchus said. “What are the impacts of screen time? How does that affect you? What does science tell us and learn about it? Learn about it from that perspective, use it as an educational opportunity as opposed to, let’s just make rules and hide from it because that is not education.”