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  • Writer's pictureMerlyn

B.C. Government Restricts Cell Phones in Schools

On Thursday, the B.C. government announced it expects all school districts to have policies in place by September 2024 that restrict students’ access to cell phones during school hours.

I realize that rules are one thing and enforcement is another. However, having a provincial-wide expectation about cell phone use in schools can encourage future policy direction that helps children youth and families develop healthier relationships with technology. Many schools already have policies about cell phone use in class; particular teachers may have their own classroom rules.

Listen to my interview with Jill Bennett on CKNW regarding the government announcement.

Schools, both in BC and internationally, have embraced a ‘no cell phones in school’ approach.

Chatelech Secondary on the Sunshine Coast of B.C. has reported more playing and improved mental health amongst its students since its ban on cell phones at school in January of 2023.

Buxton School in Massachusetts reported more conversations, increased enrolment in school clubs and expanded social engagement since replacing cell phones with ‘lite phones’ on their campus.

“As of 2020, the National Center for Education Statistics reported more than three-quarters of schools in the US had moved to restrict the non-academic use of the devices.” The Guardian, Jan 2024

The research regarding the effects of excessive unscripted, unsupervised online access on children and youth isn’t good. Those effects include mental health concerns, altered sexual health development and underdeveloped social skills. Children need less unhealthy online time, not more.

I don’t think anyone would disagree that if we knew in 2000, what we now know about how online access would impact our children, we would have deployed it differently. If we’d known that giving our teens cell phones was going to worsen eating disorders or supply information on how to commit suicide would we have rushed out for the first iPhone? If we’d known that excessive gaming could lead to young adults having deficiencies in their social-emotional learning would we have put game consoles in children’s bedrooms? I know I would have made different choices.

I believe we need to reevaluate how we deploy tech, devices and network access to children and teens. We need to help families set healthy online rules for their children that support learning and balance. Parents need to feel that they can set boundaries in the online spaces they are often intimidated by.

Our kids need less unsupervised, unscripted online access not more. Our families need support for healthy online boundaries and balanced lives. Restricting cell phone use in schools is a step in the right direction.


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