A Florida school district has taken matters into its own hands as a way to fight back against excessive screentime.
The Orange County school district located in Orlando, Florida, has found success in the overall productivity and social interactions between their students after getting rid of one key element during their school day.
Florida students had their cell phones banned during school hours.
According to the New York Times, in May 2023, a new Florida law was enacted requiring public schools to prohibit student cellphone use during instructional time and block students’ access to social media on district Wi-Fi. It also required schools to teach students about “how social media manipulates behavior.”
In response to this implemented law, the Orange County school district decided to enact a total cellphone ban. At Timber Creek High School, for example, a patrolling security guard will confiscate any cell phone he sees.
Per Gov Tech, Sarah Speight, a teacher at Boone High School, told the publication that she noticed more students were becoming engaged in lessons without the distractions of their phones and were more willing to be included in discussions.
Speight recalled her reaction to seeing one of her students passing a handwritten note to another.
“Oh, I just was tickled by it. It made me happy,” Speight said, smiling at the old-school communication.
She claimed that Orange County Public School’s ban on cell phones during the school day, which is also in effect during the student’s lunch hours, has been an overall major improvement.
“The learning change in the classroom is remarkable. Students are engaged because they’re not getting notifications in their pocket,” said Speight, who teaches ninth-grade English and Advanced Placement literature. “I would predict that we’re going to see a positive impact on test scores for the schools that have implemented this with consistency.”
It seems the school district’s efforts to limit distractions in class, encourage in-person communication between students and teachers, and decrease the detrimental impacts that screen time has on children have worked in their favor.
Students have seen an increase in grades and a decrease in bullying.
Nikita McCaskill, an Orange County teacher, told the New York Times that the ban made students “more talkative and more collaborative.” Others reported students made more eye contact and seemed more aware, a welcome change from the screen fixation following the pandemic.
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Bullying also decreased after banning phones, Timber Creek principal Marc Wasko explained, because students can no longer film embarrassing or harmful videos of other classmates to post on social media.
At East River High School, administrators have made card games and chess boards available in the cafeteria and allowed teenagers to toss balls in the courtyard during lunch, encouraging them to engage with each other now that phones are prohibited. Some parents have expressed concern over the total lack of cell phones that their kids have access to, especially in the face of an emergency.
However, school officials assured parents that students can access their phones in the event of an emergency, and there are exceptions for kids who need devices to monitor medical conditions, like diabetes.
In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, it was found that screen time may be associated with delayed development in young children. According to data, using a validated screening tool, 1-year-olds who were exposed to more than four hours of screen time per day showed delays in communication and problem-solving at ages 2 and 4.
While there is no way to monitor student’s online interactions and presence when they’re at home, schools can do their part and make sure that while they’re in the building during school hours, they are actively paying attention and not staying glued to their phones for the benefit of their education.
Nia Tipton is a Chicago-based entertainment, news, and lifestyle writer whose work delves into modern-day issues and experiences.