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Helping your teen to adjust to phone bans in high schools

In recent years, there has been a growing trend in schools across the globe to implement phone bans. It’s a topic sparking debate among researchers, educators, parents, and students alike. But why are these bans taking place, and what do they mean for you and your high school teenager? Let’s explore the reasons behind phone bans, why it can be beneficial, and how you can help your teen adjust to any potential changes.

Why ban phones?

Banning phones and research into the impacts of phones or technology at schools aren’t new. And the research so far hasn’t been entirely conclusive for either argument.

Earlier this year, UNESCO (the UN’s education, science and culture agency) wrote a report about the excessive use of smartphones in schools worldwide. They named “classroom disruption, improve learning and help protect children from cyberbullying” as the main reasons for their recommendation for bans.

For many educators in schools facing dwindling attendance rates and low student engagement, banning phones probably seems like a logical step. After all, teens are notorious for being glued to their screens, and this could interfere with their desire and ability to focus on learning.

You may have experienced the same thing at home, trying to get your kids off their technology to do homework, chores, or even be part of family activities and conversations.

So while schools across the globe trial phone bans and wait for the results and qualifying data to come back, it might impact on your teen if they’re used to having their phone on hand all day in school.

Positives of phone bans

We’ve put together a few of the potential benefits of banning phones in schools, which could also be great conversation starters with your teen.

It may not be forever

In an ideal world phone bans wouldn’t need to happen. But if nothing changes in schools after bans are implemented, or some new research comes out in their favour, then the bans might not last for long anyway.

Better focus

Fewer distractions mean students can pay better attention in class, leading to improved comprehension and retention of information. In turn, this could mean better results and less stress.

Healthier social skills

Limiting screen time during school hours could help teens increase the time they spend communicating face-to-face. This will help them to develop better social and communication skills as they spend more time with their peers and teachers.

Reduced stress

Teens often feel immense pressure to keep up with social media and messages. A phone ban could help to alleviate these stressors during school hours and leave them with more brain space to focus on school work and relationship building.

Improved mental and physical health

Less time spent on phones could be better for your teens, both mentally and physically.

“Excess screen time effects can include depression, obesity, poor quality of life, unhealthy diet and decreased physical and cognitive abilities.”

Associate Professor Asad Khan from the UQ School of Health & Rehabilitation

Lessens cyberbullying

It’s true (and unfortunate) that bullying can happen in school – but in the past it was often limited to school hours, where there was more chance of interventions. Today, with phones and technology, students can be bullied online anywhere, anytime.

Banning phones might help create a safer environment for students and reduce instances of cyberbullying, as well as the sharing of inappropriate content.

Talking about phone bans with your teen

Your teen might think it’s unfair and unreasonable, or feel upset, frustrated, or angry if they’re unable to use their phone in schools hours. It’s important to be understanding, but remind them that their feelings won’t change the facts. Next, you can offer to work together to help them overcome their issues, or find solutions.

Open communication

Start by having an open and non-judgmental conversation with your teen about the reasons behind the phone ban. Encourage them to share their thoughts and concerns and try to put yourself in their shoes.

Highlight benefits

Talk about some of potential advantages, and help your teen see that the ban is not meant to punish them, but to create a better learning environment that’s fairer for everyone.

Lead by example

Discuss ways that the entire family could embrace similar guidelines, demonstrating the importance of balanced screen time and coming up with times when phone use is reduced at home too.

Be supportive

You don’t need to argue with your kids on this – they’re the school’s rules, and the school should make sure that they’re enforced. You just need to listen to them vent and perhaps encourage your teen to participate in school activities or clubs that could help them build relationships with their peers outside the digital realm. That way they’ll have less time to miss what their phone was offering them.

Problem solving

If your teen faces legitimate challenges due to the ban (e.g., they need their phone for transportation, work, or emergencies), help them think of practical solutions that works with their school’s policies. You could even arrange to talk to the school leadership to find solutions together – it’s a learning curve for everyone.

Finding help

If you as a parent are struggling to cope with the change and need to communicate urgently with your teens during school hours, setting up a meeting with the school staff is the best place to start. Let them know your concerns and discuss a way around any problems.

Ultimately, your support and understanding could make a difference in how your teen adapts to new school policies.

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