Administrators at Lewiston Middle School in Maine are taking steps to restrict students’ cellphone use during school hours because of concerns over cyberbullying, according to the Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal.
Following the deaths of two students last school year, one of which was a suicide, school officials saw inappropriate, hurtful posts on social media during school hours, the article says. Under the new rules, students will first be given a verbal warning, the second offense will result in confiscation, and the third will require a parent to pick up the phone from the office.
Students at Lewiston High School have more freedom to use their phones between classes, and Lewiston Public Schools will also implement an app that students, parents and teachers can use to report bullying.
Administrators are increasingly trying to find the right balance between teaching students how to use technology and social media appropriately and preventing distractions that interfere with instructional time. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, which has conducted its own surveys and reviewed others’ research, about a quarter of teens has experienced cyberbullying and about one of every six has bullied others online or on social media. The organization provides a “Words Wound” curriculum that schools can use as well as other materials about sexting, digital citizenship and creating a positive school climate. Administrators also have to consider the potential learning benefits of cell phone use during class time.
While many students in elementary school even have cell phones so their parents can stay in touch with them, that doesn’t mean they have the maturity to understand that what they might post could hurt someone’s feelings or how to protect themselves online. Common Sense Media provides a guide to cell phone use that schools can share with parents.