Response: Jaclyn Kahn Siegel

Should Phones Be Banned in Schools? Learn more about the article and prompt.

Jaclyn Kahn Siegel is the Head of the School of Winston Online.

I recently read the Atlantic article, “Get Phones Out of Schools Now” by Jonathan Haidt and as a teacher (and school administrator), I had some conflicting feelings on the idea of banning phones from schools. On one hand, I myself have had that “put your phone away” or “give me your phone” fight with both middle and high school students many, many, times. It was exhausting and it wasted everyone’s time. The year my school instituted the Yondr pouches, there were less phone fights but they didn’t disappear. In fact, many students changed their hyperfocus from their phones to how to crack into those pouches. On the other hand, there are also students who diligently put their phones away regardless of whatever the phone policy is and are ready to learn.

Anyway, as I read Haidt’s article there was a nagging thought that kept popping into my head: the need for direct and explicit media literacy instruction was clearly missing. Maybe it’s because I incorporate media and digital literacy lessons into my history classes, or maybe because at my current program we are planning on incorporating media and digital literacy goals into all of our content classes next year, but the idea of flat out banning devices is not my first response. Will students who cannot bring their phones into the school building be taught direct and explicit skills that will make them more media and digitally literate? Or will we say, “out of sight, out of mind” and hope that these same students can cope on their own outside of school hours? We need to provide a figurative toolbox filled with strategies for how to use social media platforms; how to interpret, analyze, and evaluate all of the messaging that bombards everyone in all forms of media; and how to understand the impact of media on their everyday lives. 

To me, this can be comparable to sex ed that is (sometimes) incorporated into Health class: if we ban this type of education from school campuses, which is unfortunately happening in many schools, how can students make educated and informed decisions? Who teaches them what they need to know? How can they be empowered to make decisions that impact their daily lives? Media literacy is no different. Should schools be banning phones from their campuses? I’m not 100% sure. Should schools be incorporating media literacy and digital citizenship curriculum into their classes? Absolutely, and the sooner the better.

Should Phones Be Banned in Schools? Read more responses.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of NAMLE or its members. The purpose of these responses are to highlight our members and give them a place to share their reflections, opinions, and ideas.