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Bethlehem schools to lock up student cell phones

May 15, 2023 12:55 pm

Kathleen Moore reports in the Times Union that Bethlehem school officials will ban cell phones for the entire school day starting in the fall, hoping it will lead to students socializing more often. Students won't even be able to use their phones at lunch, or study times. “This is when we want our students to be social and interact with one another,” Superintendent Dave Hurst said at a school board meeting last week. Previously teachers had asked students to put away their phones during class or put them in pouches hanging on a wall of the classroom. Hurst said that “to some extent has curtailed phone use in classrooms, but not entirely." Hurst cites studies showing a national increase in students feeling lonely and isolated, with higher depression and suicide rates. So the Bethlehem schools in Albany County will spend $26,773 on lockable bags that will be issued to every student this fall. Some parents are skeptical the plan will achieve the desired results. “Everyone’s going to become a natural extrovert and talk to everyone in the cafeteria? The kids I know… avoid the cafeteria,” said parent Cara Brousseau during a school board meeting. “I wish they would socialize, but you can’t just expect that to happen spontaneously by locking up their cellphone. There needs to be a path to get there.” Students, polled anonymously, have differing views. One said it would take “a weight off your shoulders,” while another asked, “What am I going to do in my free periods?... It would make my life suck.” Two students questioned worried about a lack of a phone during a school shooting. The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and Green Island schools are also planning to ban phone use entirely. Psychiatrist Dr. Kevin Martin of Saratoga Springs isn’t convinced that taking away the phones will work as intended. “It’s correlation, not necessarily causation. Around 2012 when we hit about 50 percent in smartphone usage, since then, even before the pandemic, mental health issues in kids and teens really went up,” he said. Read more about this story in the Times Union.

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