From time to time, the question arises “Can my student bring a cell phone to school if it remains in her or his backpack and is turned off?”  This often leads to additional questions about the use of e-readers, and other electronic devices.  Although there is much folklore about this issue, the policy is, and remains, that student electronic devices are prohibited at Saint Mary’s.  This includes phones, readers, games, and soon to come watches, fitness monitors, etc.  Teachers do incorporate personal electronic devices into their instruction, and with a teacher’s permission (and supervision) students may bring in devices following the teacher’s directions.

If an electronic device is discovered to be in possession of a student, the device is taken and returned only to the parent.  If this occurs for a second time, a meeting with the parent is required to retrieve the device.  The third time leads to formal disciplinary action.

Saint Mary’s believes that young students should be supervised while using these devices.  There simply is too much temptation and risk to allow students independent, unsupervised use of these devices.  Research confirms that excessive screen time is detrimental to a student, so unrestricted use must be avoided.  The devices often are distractions to classroom learning — it is important that students not be distracted.

Fortunately, students have supervised access to electronic devices and technology at Saint Mary’s.  Students may ask to use the phone at any time.  Instructional devices are readily available when appropriate to learning, and are supervised when used.  Prohibiting personal electronic devices allows Saint Mary’s teachers and staff to supervise students when using school provided technology and reduces student exposure to unanticipated temptations and inappropriate actions.

Common concerns of unsupervised use of personal electronics include inappropriately taking photos and sharing on the internet, electronically cheating by texting answers, viewing inappropriate content (and sharing with other students), “sneaking” use of otherwise hidden devices and a variety of other misuses of technology.  In addition to these concerns, many electronic devices are expensive.  Accidental damage and/or damage by a third party creates a very difficult situation for the school.  Saint Mary’s simply is not in a position to accept liability for broken or damaged devices.

An often heard comment is “I want my child to be safe after school, and I need them to have a phone so that I can communicate with them.”  While technology makes this easier than in the past, the answer lies in the child taking possession of the electronics after release from school or after school care.  The person picking up the student should make the device available to the student – the student should not have the device with them at school.

Another often heard comment is “I purchased required reading as an e-book.  My student can only read the book on an electronic device.”  Recent neurological research indicates that reading a book on an e-reader is a different experience from reading a traditional text.  Lessons are based on the experience of reading hard copy.  To insure consistency of instruction, students must experience hard copy reading.  Reading e-books, while a valuable skill, does not provide the student with the advantage of the classroom instruction designed for hard copy reading.  It is pretty clear in the research that comprehension is improved when hard copy is read.  When it is appropriate to the lesson, electronic devices are supplied to the students for their use.  When some students are reading hard copy while others are reading electronic versions, instruction is compromised.

Saint Mary’s has monitored the introduction of technology in schools, and strives to maintain a balance between appropriate use of technology in an instructional setting and unsupervised and often detrimental use of technology.  Surveying our graduates and the schools they attend consistently demonstrates that our students are well prepared to utilize emerging technologies.  Not having personal electronic devices available at Saint Mary’s does not seem to have any detrimental effect on the student’s safety, learning, or well being.

Parents are asked to cooperate with the implementation of this policy.

For additional reading, see:

Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction

Readers absorb less on Kindles than on paper, study finds

Your paper brain and your Kindle brain aren’t the same thing

E-reading isn’t reading.