Cellphone free zone

The students probably are grumbling, but Edgerton High School’s decision to ban cellphones from the classroom this year should be met with cheers.

Edgerton isn’t the first high school in Rock County to impose a ban, but it’s at the forefront of a movement to erect more barriers between students and their devices.

Many schools, including Janesville’s two high schools, prohibit students from using their phones in class but don’t ban the devices. It’s no secret many students ignore this rule. Phones have become extensions of the teenage mind, and many students cannot put down their phones for 10 minutes, let alone an entire class period. (Many parents couldn’t do the same.)

Edgerton High School adopted the ban because its out-of-sight-out-of-mind policy wasn’t working, Principal Mark Coombs said.

“I saw it firsthand when I would walk into classrooms and see two, three, four kids on a cellphone, trying to sneak it under their desk or something while the teacher is trying to lecture, or maybe they’re trying to have a discussion, and the kids aren’t engaged because they’re on their cellphone,” he told The Gazette.

The new policy requires students to leave their phones in their lockers. Students who violate the policy must wait until the end of the school day to retrieve their phones. A second offense requires a parent to pick up the confiscated phone.

We urge Edgerton staff to stay strong and resist any temptation to roll back the ban. This is a classic case of the educators knowing what’s best for kids, who’ve become guinea pigs in an evolving experiment on the long-term effects of social media technologies. The early results aren’t promising, with studies showing increases in anxiety, depression and suicide among teens since the emergence of the iPhone in 2007.

The effects on academic performance are less clear, but it’s difficult to imagine how students accessing their Instagram or Snapchat accounts during math class is a good thing.

Coombs said he remembers a time when he thought cellphones in the classroom would be beneficial. But he didn’t envision social media becoming such a dominant part of the phone experience, turning these devices into distractions instead of tools.

It’s important to note Edgerton students still have access to technology: school-issued laptops with content filters. The filters aren’t perfect, but the school doesn’t have nearly as many problems monitoring the use of school-issued technology, Coombs said.

Opponents of the classroom ban are likely to argue students must learn to function in the classroom like in the real world. But the real world can’t seem to properly manage cellphones, either. These devices often sap productivity in the workplace and distract employees.

Indeed, many student use their phones at school like their parents do at work and home, constantly texting and scrolling through social media feeds.

Schools have a special responsibility to look out for students’ best interests. Schools exist to educate students, and these devices are undermining their education. Edgerton has done a service to students by banning cellphones from the classroom.

And who knows? Some Edgerton students might discover they don’t have to be attached to their phones 24/7. They might actually start to enjoy school more and begin to recognize there’s more to life than living it through a phone.