elementary school students with smartphones

"The study found the amount of time youth in grades 8-12 used electronic devices, including smartphones, for at least five hours a day more than doubled from 8 percent in 2009 to 19 percent in 2015."

Kyrene School District is seeking parents’ input on whether curbs should be put on their kids use of and access to cellphones while they are at school.

In a video message to parents last week, Kyrene Superintendent Jan Vesely said:

“I am very interested in hearing from you. How can we as a community reduce screen time for our students? How do we put down our phones and how do we make changes that are going to be very, very positive in the lives of our students? 

“As a parent and as a grandparent, I worry about the impact and the effect that screen time and phone usage as well as video games have on our youth.”

There’s much to worry about.

Last Thursday, a high school senior in the Mesa School District shot herself to death, becoming the 37 East Valley teenager lost to suicide since July 2017 and the third female student in that district to take her life in five months. One girls was only 12.

A 2017 study published in Clinical Psychological Science suggests one factor leading to teens’ depression and suicidal thoughts and attempts could be rising social-media use, according to Dr. Courtney Gaines, a psychiatrist for Terros Health. 

The study found the amount of time youth in grades 8-12 used electronic devices, including smartphones, for at least five hours a day more than doubled from 8 percent in 2009 to 19 percent in 2015. 

“These children were 70 percent more likely to have suicidal thoughts or actions than those who reported one hour of daily use,” Gaines said.

Vesely’s video message comes a few weeks after a “social media activist” Collin Kartchner appeared in student assemblies at Kyrene’s middle schools and then at a special session for interested parents with a message to curb not only their kids’ use of social media but their own.

He noted that social media, including gaming, has become an addiction and that it has intensified anxiety among young people as a result of cyberbullying,

Kartchner “talked to the parents about the consideration of doing a family contract in terms of establishing parameters around when the adults and the children are going to be using technology,” Vesely said.

Moreover, Kartchner’s appearance prompted some parents to ask Vesely if the district should ban phones from school.

Vesely said the district has considered limits on phones in school, noting that results of limitations at Altadena and Kyrene middle schools have produced some encouraging results.

She said principals report “there’s more interaction of students, students to students, more conversation.

“They are also engaging in more physical activities and really feel like the results thus far have been very, very positive for our learners,” Vesely added.

Some districts across the country have started to phone-free policies. 

San Mateo High School in California’s Bay Area became the largest public school in the country to require students to put their phones in a Yondr pouch with a locking device that is unlocked only after the class day ends.

The Forest Hills Public School District in Michigan this year began requiring students to lock their phones up until the end of the day.

Meanwhile, some Texas have started a campaign on a website, waituntil8th.org, that tries to persuade parents not to even give their children a smart phone until they are at least in eighth grade.

“All children should experience a childhood filled with outside play, long afternoons with books and puzzles and time without the presence of a screen,” they say on the website.

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