Response: Dr. Anna Levy-Warren

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

Dr. Anna Levy-Warren (she/her) is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist; Founder and CEO of Organizational Tutors; Co-Founder of Dwellness In-Home Psychological Services PLLC & STEEL Advising.

As a mother of three, practicing psychologist, and business owner, I live the negative impacts of devices every day, personally and professionally: on learning, social connection, sleep, and mental health.  I completely agree that phone usage can, and often does, impede kids from engaging fully in their education and with the people around them, and I believe schools should take the same intentional actions recommended for parents and leverage tools like contracts and apps to help improve relationships with our phone- that schools teach kids how to manage their phone usage by modeling and discussing healthy habits, fostering collaborative and creative approaches to implementation, and encouraging both personal and peer-to-peer accountability. 

The collective trauma and intense impact of the chaos and crisis that was managing our kids’ education from 2020-2021 is still fresh on our minds. Phones, devices, and screens in general, played a unique role during the pandemic; taking them away from students creates potential for a kind of harm that is important to consider. Mobile phones became transitional objects and lifelines during the pandemic. Just as we don’t grab our child’s “lovey” out of their hands when we no longer want them carrying it around, but rather work to increase our child’s comfort with leaving it in their bed or slowly finding a replacement, I believe we need to do the same with phones. These relationships with their lifelines are more complicated than we can fully understand and respecting the complexity of desiring access to their phones during this fragile period makes sense to me. 

When I practice Executive Functioning coaching with adults who struggle to shift between professional emails and Instagram or sneak looks at texts interrupting important meetings and losing their threads of conversation, I consider the more important and real question of how do we help strengthen the skills required to help people do this intentional work on their own. I myself still have to work on when I enable the Do Not Disturb setting and when I put limits on my various apps. You reach a point in life where no one will take away your phone. Instead of a ban, I would love to see us focus on empowering students with the skills and strategies they need to take agency and make positive decisions about phone usage during the school day. Let’s teach them how to increase impulse control and positively reinforce when they put their phones away, not because they have to, but because it’s a good decision to do so, and is indeed their choice with our guidance. I believe it will carry over to all parts of their lives, now and in the future – learning, connecting, and being present because they’ve internalized these lessons.

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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.