North East School Division looking into cell phone policy

MELFORT – The North East School Division is looking into developing a division wide policy on personal cell phone devices.

Director of Education Stacy Lair told SaskToday.ca that the board has requested the school division to develop an administrative procedure for all North East schools. At the last NESD board meeting, 108 respondents to a survey from teachers and administration on cellphone use was reviewed.

Lair said they are currently in the research phase of the policy development, and they know the following:

  • The rationale for a policy is to improve student wellbeing by stopping the use of social media interaction during the school day.

  • Maximize time for learning growth by reducing digital distraction related to students’ personal communication devices.

  • Most adults acknowledge that cell phones and social media can be highly addictive for adults and there is a necessity to do a better job of protecting our students AND teaching them how to manage the device to use it in health ways, ways that support good digital citizenship.

  • The relationship between the popularity of smartphones and social media and the mental health crisis among youth that first became evident in 2010.

  • The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health found that 91 per cent of students in Grades 7 to 12 use social media daily, and about one-third of them use it five hours or more.

  • Experts reference the significant societal change from a play-based childhood to a phone-based childhood. Students are bringing their phone habits to school. (Haidt, J. (2024). The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Causing an Epidemic of Metal Illness. Penguin Press)

Lair said the next step will be to work alongside a group of NESD teachers to develop a draft policy. The school division will be working with School Community Councils to determine ways to advocate and direct this work.

Within the survey, respondents stated there is a strong preference for restricting personal device use in schools, with many advocating for complete bans or strict limitations. It also recommended the need for consistent enforcement, parental involvement, and clear guidelines to ensure devices are used appropriately.

Other provinces have implemented a cell phone ban in schools in B.C., Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta.

Nicole Goldsworthy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, SASKTODAY.ca