Is a phone-free Friday feasible?: The Vanguard supports a school day without cell use

Upper School (US) Librarians Sandy Dow and Laura Duncan have proposed a one-day experiment in which students would elect to forgo their cellphones at school. They hope students will challenge themselves to take a break from their phones and connect with one another. The Vanguard editors are in. We love the idea of a phone-free Friday, both for the alliterative opportunity and the chance to shake up our relationships with our devices.

Although having our phones in school for the benefits of immediate internet or email access is certainly a nice privilege, we think trying to go without them for a day would, at the very least, be interesting. In September 2015 the US changed the cell-phone policy from allowing phones only in certain areas of the school to allowing them everywhere except for during class. US Director Geoff Theobald said that even though the policy changed, student leadership agreed they didn’t want the policy change to encourage students to be buried in their phones while walking through the hallways or sitting at the lunch table. 

Since the no-cellphone policy was lifted before the current seniors were freshmen, no current US students have experienced the school without access to their cellphones. Perhaps without the distraction of cellphones, we would interact with each other more, converse in new ways with our friends, or even get to know new people.

Besides the social benefits, taking a break from our phones in school could improve our experience of both school and our phones. If we could better segment our day into academic time and relaxation time, then we could focus better on our work in school and enjoy downtime on our phones guilt-free after school. We cannot predict whether this exercise will feel comfortable for every student, but it is certainly worth trying with the proposed one-day experiment. 

Ms. Dow and Ms. Duncan said they were inspired by a segment on National Public Radio that described Newton North High School’s one-day experiment in which every student’s phone was collected until they left the building at the end of the school day. The idea of a temporary break from phone use intrigued Ms. Dow and Ms. Duncan, they said, even though they agreed with Dean of Students Rory Morton ’81 that a mandatory phone-free day would be less doable and effective than a voluntary one. 

We agree, too. A policy requiring students to give up their phones might make many students resentful or unhappy, whereas a voluntary phone-free day would encourage students to lead the effort and rally others to join. We hope that students will view the day as a challenge that could perhaps improve their experience of school. To those who are uncertain about shelving their phones but who think the challenge sounds interesting, test the idea out with your friends and see if you can get a small group of people to do it with you. The more people who participate, the more fun it will be—and the more useful the experiment will be in finding out what school would be like without our smellulars, to quote Photography Teacher Andrew Warren. 

The Vanguard is excited for a phone-free Friday, and we hope you will join us in heeding the call of our wise librarians by putting away your phone and encouraging others to do the same. A “PFF” would be a great opportunity to push ourselves, try something different, and share a fresh experience with each other. Cya :))

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