Should Schools Ban cell phones?
One afternoon last month, hundreds of students at Timber Creek High School in Orlando poured into the campus’s sprawling central courtyard to hang out and eat
lunch. For members of a highly online generation, their activities were decidedly analog.
Dozens sat in small groups, animatedly talking with one another. Others played pickleball on makeshift lunchtime courts. There was not a cellphone in sight — and that
was no accident. In May, Florida passed a law requiring public school districts to impose rules barring
student cellphone use during class time. This fall, Orange County Public Schools — which includes Timber Creek High — went even further, blocking students from using
cell phones during the entire school day. In interviews, a dozen Orange County parents and students said they supported the no-phone rules during class. But they objected to their district’s stricter, daylong ban.
Parents said their children should be able to contact them directly during free periods, while students described the all-day ban as unfair and infantilizing. “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 are taking away the ability for us to make a choice and to learn responsibility.” Like many exasperated parents, public schools across the United States are adopting
increasingly drastic measures to pry young people away from their cell phones. Lawmakers and district leaders argue that more burdensome constraints are needed because rampant
social media use during school is threatening students’ education, well-being, and physical safety. Other students said school seemed more prisonlike. To call their parents, they noted, students must now go to the front office and ask permission to use the phone. Surveillance has also intensified. To enforce the ban, Lyle Lake, a Timber Creek security officer, now patrols lunch period on a golf cart, capturing students violating the ban and driving them to the front office, where they must place their phones in a locked cabinet for the rest of the school day.