When Progress Matters: A Hi-Res Perspective on Cellphone Policy

Like dress code, faculty meeting discussion about cell phone policy is at best a tired, if not avoided, topic. Old news. At the same time, the science of what we really know about cognitive function and screen time is in its infancy. I remain an optimist on most generational topics including the impact of cell phones – once again the kids will probably be ok!

However, research continues to confirm that substantial screen time can sabotage academic, emotional and cognitive maturation in young people.

Recent media attention includes Adam Alter's book, Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, Simon Sinek’s Youtube on Millennials and Jean Twenge’s Atlantic article, "Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?"

Donna Orem, at NAIS, provides a balanced view in her current post, "How Does Technology Affect Teen Health and Well-Being?"

Schools naturally follow a variety of approaches - cell phone use for some is partitioned by space and time while others impose few if any boundaries. Like dress code, cell phone policy is not easily discussed, decided or effectively imposed – a proverbial greased watermelon of an issue.
My career has been spent in traditional day and boarding schools and uniquely now at a ‘summer boarding school’ as well. What perspective can Wolfeboro offer on the topic of student cell phone policy?

Try this:
• Wolfeboro ensures academic progress in a short five week program.
• By policy, students are cell phone free (they may use school provided landlines).
• Faculty remain steadfast about the policy: when progress matters - the compromise of cell phones is unacceptable.

That’s it. The priority of academic success is deemed incompatible with the distraction of student cell phones. This policy draws annual support not only from teachers, but perhaps more so from parents and eventually from students as well. Happily, face to face friendship and interaction always seem to win the day!

The takeaway I offer is concise and not dogmatic: it is simply the singular perspective that this example offers to the discussion and one example of policy and rationale.

Cheers for a splendid fall term!

About The Author

Ed Cooper, Head of School, Wolfeboro Camp School

Edward Cooper has been involved in independent education since 1978. His service to ISANNE began in 1978 and has continued in different roles to this day.  A graduate of Hotchkiss, and St. Lawrence, his graduate studies included a focus in school psychology.

Mr. Cooper’s independent school career spans various roles at the Cardigan Mountain School (NH), the Berkshire School (MA), Kimball Union Academy (NH) and Berwick Academy (ME).  Mr. Cooper has long been affiliated with the Wolfeboro Camp School (NH) where he is currently Wolfeboro’s Head of School, having served as Head since 2005.