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Feeder schools implement policies for tech use

'On the social end of things, it has done wonders for these kids'

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Schools in the Rock Canyon High School feeder system are taking steps to address students' increasing use of technology in the classroom.

In August, Rocky Heights Middle School implemented a cell phone ban. And last month, Timber Trail Elementary amended its policy on technology use. In addition to a cell phone ban, the school now prohibits the use of smart watches, fitness trackers, tablets, electronic music devices and personal computers during the school day.

In a society in which screens are increasingly replacing face-to-face interactions, the schools' decisions encourage interpersonal skills and promote an effective learning environment, staff say.

“What's really been nice is seeing the conversations that are happening," said Rocky Heights counselor Lori Qui. “The kids are actually having a good time together in a very positive way.”

The average age of obtaining cell phones is getting younger, research shows. In 2010, it was 12 or 13, according to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center. In 2016, it dropped to 10 years old, according to a report by Influence Central, a marketing agency that surveyed 500 women on the impact of digital technology and electronic devices on families. Results revealed that 50 percent of kids had a social media account by the age 12.

The impact: more distraction in the classroom and an uptick of bullying over social media on school grounds, said Rocky Heights Principal Celine Wicks. Since the school implemented its cell phone ban, there have been fewer suspensions and issues related to bullying, she said.

Kids are actually talking to each other at lunch time and working on those social skills instead of staring at their phones,” Wicks said. “It's changed the culture of the building.”

The two schools still allow students to have their cell phones to call parents after school or from the bus. But the devices must be left in backpacks and turned off during the school day. Wicks pointed out that there is a phone in the counselor's office available to kids and parents that need to get ahold of their children. Both schools also have a one-to-one laptop program, meaning every student has access to a laptop or tablet.

The feeder system's high school, Rock Canyon, does not have a phone or device ban. Students in grades ninth through eleventh are expected to bring a personally owned device to access throughout the school day, according to the school's website.

Schools in the district are able to implement their own technology policies, said Paula Hans, the district's public information officer.

“It's obviously a school-by-school decision depending on what they are seeing and if they have concerns,” she said. “We just want to make sure we have students' full attention.”

Although some teachers and parents were apprehensive in the beginning, Wicks said, the majority of feedback has been positive. She foresees the middle school's cell phone ban staying in place “for a while.”

“On the social end of things, it has done wonders for these kids,” Wicks said. “Kids would say things that aren't nice over social media. Those kinds of discussions aren't happening as much.”

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